- 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: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Disgrace Paperback – 6 Apr 1999
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Emerging from the dissident calibrations of literary voices joined together in the culture of protest against the apartheid regime, the distinctive writing of novelist, critic and academic J M Coetzee has become identified as one of the most finely tuned among contemporary Southern African writers. From the local recognition accorded his earliest novel Dusklands to the international acclaim with which his rewriting of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe story, Foe was received, Coetzee has dedicated himself to transforming South African writing from a blunt weapon of struggle to a delicate and incisive instrument of reflective liberation.
Disgrace takes as its complex central character 52-year-old English professor David Lurie whose preoccupation with Romantic poetry--and romancing his students--threatens to turn him into a "a moral dinosaur". Called to account by the University for a passionate but brief affair with a student who is ambivalent about his embraces, David refuses to apologise, drawing on poetry before what he regards as political correctness in his claim that his "case rests on the rights of desire." Seeking refuge with his quietly progressive daughter Lucie on her isolated small holding, David finds that the violent dilemmas of the new South Africa are inescapable when the tentative emotional truce between errant father and daughter is ripped apart by a traumatic event that forces Lucie to an appalling disgrace. Pitching the moral code of political correctness against the values of Romantic poetry in its evocation of personal relationships, this novel is skillful--almost cunning--in its exploration of David's refusal to be accountable and his daughter's determination to make her entire life a process of accountability. Their personal dilemmas cast increasingly foreshortened shadows against the rising concerns of the emancipated community, and become a subtle metaphor for the historical unaccountability of one culture to another.
The ecstatic critical reception with which Disgrace has been received has insisted that its excellence lies in its ability to encompass the universality of the human condition. Nothing could be farther from the truth, or do the novel--and its author--a greater disservice. The real brilliance of this stylish book lies in its ability to capture and render accountable--without preaching--the specific universality of the condition of whiteness and white consciousness. Disgrace is foremost a confrontation with history that few writers would have the resources to sustain. Coetzee's vision is unforgiving--but not bleak. Against the self-piteous complaints of all declining cultures and communities who bemoan the loss of privileges that were never theirs to take, Coetzee's vision of an unredeemed white consciousness holds out--to those who reach towards an understanding of their position in history by starting again, with nothing--the possibility of "a moderate bliss." --Rachel Holmes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"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)
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Top Customer Reviews
In exactly the same way he invites us to consider Lucy's attitude as a white South African woman towards her black male attackers. To some people, including her father, her attitude is inexplicable. Instead of hating and seeking revenge she accepts the offence as some kind of inevitable consequence of the years of apartheid and simply refuses to even criticise her assailants. In complete contrast to her father's instinctive id driven life, she deeply feels the collective sins of her race and is anxious to atone for them.Read more ›
I found it easier to pity Lurie rather than sympathise with him, which is sometimes a disadvantage in a main character. However, the writer's understanding of women's nature made Lucy come alive and my empathy for her meant that her actions were easier to understand and justify than Lurie's were. One of the book's strengths is its descriptive passages which allow the reader to build up a good picture of the setting and put the lives and often harsh actions of the characters into context.
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an engaging story. The essence of the book is quite dark, and there is not much to be upbeat about by the end of the novel. However, rather than be depressing, the book encourages you to question where your sympathies lie and seems to be some sort of lesson in moral standards.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Certainly deserves its place on the Telegraph list of 100 novels everyone should read.Published 1 month ago by Shopshire Blue
The only redeeming point in this bleak, relentless piece of nihilism is the dialogue, which is so bad as to be hilarious. Read morePublished 1 month ago by daisyrock
Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee has sat, untouched by my bed for at least the last two months. Shameful….disgraceful you might say (or I would). Read morePublished 2 months ago by Rae Else
I was surprised by how much I ended up caring about David Lurie by the end of Disgrace because he is a very unlikable man. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Stephanie Jane
Powerfully disturbing. The writing is relentless, sparse and without frills. A disturbing story written masterfully.Published 6 months ago by Adeyemi
A difficult topic artfully written. There is a lot of truth in this book
that is hard to look at....this is South Africa.