- Paperback: 220 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Edition edition (6 April 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099289520
- ISBN-13: 978-0099289524
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 203 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Disgrace Paperback – 6 Apr 2000
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"What is remarkable about Coetzee’s vision as a novelist is that it remains intensely human, rooted in common experience and replete with failure, doubt and frustration" (Guardian)
"Exhilarating... One of the best novelists alive" (Sunday Times)
"What is remarkable about Coetzee’s vision as a novelist is that it remains intensely human, rooted in common experience and replete with failure, doubt and frustration"
Winner of the 1999 Booker PrizeSee all Product description
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Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee
This is a book I would have avoided on seeing its bleak cover, had it not been required reading for the course I was doing.
But it drew me in without effort, and I was captured.
It works on various levels. It is a fascinating study of South Africa’s morning after, from the point of view of the white liberal minority who must make political and psychological accommodations to the seismic change which followed the release of Mandela. There is a sly depiction of academic attitudes; the professors are keeping the ramparts of the establishment in good order.
The story, already dramatic, has a brilliant central character, David Lurie, whom Coetzee contrives to make objectionable but compelling. He is an abuser, an arrogant sex-pest, whose position as a professor of literature has been eroded and ‘rationalised’ with the universal dilution of tertiary education. The studies of The Romantics he has published have been received with indifference, his students are uninspired, but his arrogance transcends the disappointments of his life.
He is a despicable man who does vile things, and his attitudes are appalling; he shows signs of having a personality disorder. But this is not the all of him. After leaving his post in the disgrace of the title, he goes to stay with his daughter, and it is at this point we realise that he has vulnerabilities. He loves his daughter. And later we find that he can empathise; he feels for the unfortunate animals which he has to deal in the harsh environment of rural South Africa. Circumstances punish him for his misdeeds, but in some respects he fails to learn important lessons.
The essay I had to write on his character allowed something over 2000 words, and I could have spent double – easily - on him. There is no easy summing-up possible; no classic redemption. But his flawed character is unforgettable, and its complexity challenging.
“Disgrace” is one of those enriching books which repay re-reading, and stay with the reader forever.
The friction which ensues after his daughter is burgled and, unbeknown to him, raped is both fascinating and complex, especially when the daughter decides to go ahead with the resulting pregnancy.
An engrossing, many faceted story by the eminent Mr Coetzee on a subject, I suspect, very close to his heart.
The book is very depressing: it highlights the erosion of a civilised way of life, the growing lack of respect and the widespread intolerance, not just between races, but also between generations. The book makes you realise that this is not just a South African problem, but one for all mankind.
Not recommended reading for those of a suicidal nature.
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