Disgrace: A Novel

Disgrace: A Novel

by J. M. Coetzee

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J.M. Coetzee's latest novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, is now available from Viking. Late Essays: 2006-2016 will be available January 2018. 

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee’s searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice divorced, 52-year-old professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. He lives within his financial and emotional means. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy his sexual needs. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion a chain of events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

Lurie pursues his relationship with the young Melaniewhom he describes as having hips “as slim as a twelve-year-old’s”obsessively and narcissistically, ignoring, on one occasion, her wish not to have sex. When Melanie and her father lodge a complaint against him, Lurie is brought before an academic committee where he admits he is guilty of all the charges but refuses to express any repentance for his acts. In the furor of the scandal, jeered at by students, threatened by Melanie’s boyfriend, ridiculed by his ex-wife, Lurie is forced to resign and flees Cape Town for his daughter Lucy’s smallholding in the country. There he struggles to rekindle his relationship with Lucy and to understand the changing relations of blacks and whites in the new South Africa. But when three black strangers appear at their house asking to make a phone call, a harrowing afternoon of violence follows which leaves both of them badly shaken and further estranged from one another. After a brief return to Cape Town, where Lurie discovers his home has also been vandalized, he decides to stay on with his daughter, who is pregnant with the child of one of her attackers. Now thoroughly humiliated, Lurie devotes himself to volunteering at the animal clinic, where he helps put down diseased and unwanted dogs. It is here, Coetzee seems to suggest, that Lurie gains a redeeming sense of compassion absent from his life up to this point.

Written with the austere clarity that has made J. M. Coetzee the winner of two Booker Prizes, Disgrace explores the downfall of one man and dramatizes, with unforgettable, at times almost unbearable, vividness the plight of a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of centuries of racial oppression.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524705466
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/03/2017
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 115,537
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940, John Michael Coetzee studied first at Cape Town and later at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Ph.D. degree in literature. In 1972 he returned to South Africa and joined the faculty of the University of Cape Town. His works of fiction include Dusklands, Waiting for the Barbarians, which won South Africa’s highest literary honor, the Central News Agency Literary Award, and the Life and Times of Michael K., for which Coetzee was awarded his first Booker Prize in 1983. He has also published a memoir, Boyhood: Scenes From a Provincial Life, and several essays collections. He has won many other literary prizes including the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize and The Irish Times International Fiction Prize. In 1999 he again won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for Disgrace, becoming the first author to win the award twice in its 31-year history. In 2003, Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Adelaide, Australia

Date of Birth:

February 9, 1940

Place of Birth:

Cape Town, South Africa


B.A., University of Cape Town, 1960; M.A., 1963; Ph.D. in Literature, University of Texas, Austin, 1969

Read an Excerpt


FOR. A MAN of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind,solved the problem of sex rather well. On Thursday afternoons hedrives to Green Point. Punctually at two p.m. he presses the buzzerat the entrance to Windsor Mansions, speaks his name, and enters.Waiting for him at the door of No. II3 is Soraya. He goes straightthrough to the bedroom, which is pleasant-smelling and softly lit,and undresses. Soraya emerges from the bathroom, drops her robe,slides into bed beside him. 'Have you missed me?' she asks. 'I missyou all the time,' he replies. He strokes her honey-brown body,unmarked by the sun; he stretches her out, kisses her breasts; theymake love.

Soraya is tall and slim, with long black hair and dark, liquid eyes.Technically he is old enough to be her father; but then,technically, one can be a father at twelve. He has been on herbooks for over a year; he finds her entirely satisfactory. In thedesert of the week Thursday has become an oasis of luxe et velupté.

In bed Soraya is not effusive. Her temperament is in fact ratherquiet, quiet and docile. In her general opinions she is surprisinglymoralistic. She is offended by tourists who bare their breasts('udders', she calls them) on public beaches; she thinks vagabondsshould be rounded up and put to work sweeping the streets. How she reconciles her opinions with her line of business he does not ask.

Because he takes pleasure in her, because his pleasure isunfailing, an affection has grown up in him for her. To somedegree, he believes, this affection is reciprocated. Affection maynot be love, but it is at least its cousin. Given their unpromisingbeginnings, they have been lucky, the two of them: he to havefound her, she to have found him.

His sentiments are, he is aware, complacent, even uxorious.Nevertheless he does not cease to hold to them.

For a ninety-minute session he pays her R4oo, of which halfgoes to Discreet Escorts. It seems a pity that Discreet Escortsshould get so much. But they own No. II3 and other flats inWindsor Mansions; in a sense they own Soraya too, this part ofher, this function.

He has toyed with the idea of asking her to see him in her owntime. He would like to spend an evening with her, perhaps even awhole night. But not the morning after. He knows too muchabout himself to subject her to a morning after, when he will becold, surly, impatient to be alone.

That is his temperament. His temperament is not going to change,he is too old for that. His temperament is fixed, set. The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body.

Follow your temperament. It is not a philosophy, he would notdignity it with that name. It is a rule, like the Rule of St Benedict.He is in good health, his mind is clear. By profession he is, orhas been, a scholar, and scholarship still engages, intermittently, thecore of him. He lives within his income, within his temperament,within his emotional means. Is he happy? By most measurements,yes, he believes he is. However, he has not forgotten the lastchorus of Oedipus: Call no man happy until he is dead.

In the field of sex his temperament, though intense, has neverbeen passionate. Were he to choose a totem, it would be the snake.Intercourse between Soraya and himself must be, he imagines, rather like the copulation of snakes: lengthy, absorbed, but ratherabstract, rather dry, even at its hottest.

Is Soraya's totem the snake too? No doubt with other men shebecomes another woman: lu donna é mobile. Yet at the level oftemperament her affinity with him can surely not be feigned.Though by occupation she is a loose woman he trusts her,within limits. During their sessions he speaks to her with a certainfreedom, even on occasion unburdens himself She knows the factsof his life. She has heard the stories of his two marriages, knowsabout his daughter and his daughter's ups and downs. She knowsmany of his opinions.

Of her life outside Windsor Mansions Soraya reveals nothing.Soraya is not her real name, that he is sure of. There are signs shehas borne a child, or children. It may be that she is not aprofessional at all. She may work for the agency only one or twoafternoons a week, and for the rest live a respectable life in thesuburbs, in Rylands or Athlone. That would be unusual for aMuslim, but all things are possible these days.

About his own job he says little, not wanting to-bore her. Heearns his living at the Cape Technical University, formerly CapeTown University College. Once a professor of modern languages,he has been, since Classics and Modern Languages were closeddown as part of the great rationalization, adjunct professor ofcommunications. Like all rationalized personnel, he is allowed tooffer one special-field course a year, irrespective of enrolment,because that is good for morale. This year he is offering a course inthe Romantic poets. For the rest he teaches Communications I0I,'Communication Skills' and Communications 20I, 'AdvancedCommunication Skills'.

Although he devotes hours of each day to his new discipline, hefinds its first premise, as enunciated in the Communications I0Ihandbook, preposterous: 'Human society has created language in order that we may communicate our thoughts, feelings andintentions to each other.' His own opinion, which he does not air,is that the origins of speech lie in song, and the origins of song inthe need to fill out with sound the overlarge and rather emptyhuman soul.

In the course of a career stretching back a quarter of a centuryhe has published three books, none of which has caused a stir oreven a ripple: the first on opera (Boito and the Faust Legend: TheGenesis of Mefistofele), the second on vision as eros (The Vision ofRichard of St. Victor), the third on Wordsworth and history(Wordsworth and the Burden of the Post}.

In the past few years he has been playing with the idea of a workon Byron. At first he had thought it would be another book,another critical opus. But all his sallies at writing it have boggeddown in tedium. The truth is, he is tired of criticism, tired of' prosemeasured by the yard. What he wants to write is music: Byron inItaly, a meditation on love between the sexes in the form of achamber opera.

Through his mind, while he faces his Communications classes, fit phrases, tunes, fragments of song from the unwritten work. Hehas never been much of a teacher; in this transformed and, to hismind, emasculated institution of learning he is more out of place than ever. But then, so are other of his colleagues from the olddays, burdened with upbringings inappropriate to the tasks they areset to perform; clerks in a post-religious age.

Because he has no respect for the material he teaches, he makesno impression on his students. They look through him when hespeaks, forget his name. Their indifference galls him more than hewill admit. Nevertheless he fulfils to the letter his obligationstoward them, their parents, and the state. Month after month hesets, collects, reads, and annotates their assignments, correctinglapses in punctuation, spelling and usage, interrogating weak arguments, appending to each paper a brief, considered critique.

He continues to teach because it provides him with a livelihood;also because it teaches him humility, brings it home to him whohe is in the world. The irony does not escape him: that the onewho comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons, while those whocome to learn learn nothing. It is a feature of his profession onwhich he does not remark to Soraya. He doubts there is an ironyto match it in hers.

In the kitchen of the flat in Green Point there are a kettle, plasticcups, a jar of instant coffee, a bowl with sachets of sugar. Therefrigerator holds a supply of bottled water. In the bathroom thereis soap and a pile of towels, in the cupboard clean bed linen. Sorayakeeps her makeup in an overnight bag. A place of assignation,nothing more, functional, clean, well regulated.

The first time Soraya received him she wore vermilion lipstickand heavy eyeshadow. Not liking the stickiness of the makeup, heasked her to wipe it off. She obeyed, and has never worn it since.A ready learner, compliant, pliant.

He likes giving her presents. At New Year he gave her anenamelled bracelet, at Eid a little malachite heron that caught hiseye in a curio shop. He enjoys her pleasure, which is quiteunaffected.

It surprises him that ninety minutes a week of a woman'scompany are enough to make him happy, who used to think heneeded a wife, a home, a marriage. His needs turn out to be quitelight, after all, light and fleeting, like those of a butterfly. Noemotion, or none but the deepest, the most unguessed-at: aground bass of contentedness, like the hum of traffic that lulls thecity—dweller to sleep, or like the silence of the night to countryfolk.

He thinks of Emma Bovary, coming home sated, glazen-eyed,from an afternoon of reckless fucking. So this is bliss!, says Emma, marvelling at herself in the mirror. So this is the bliss the poets speakof? Well, if poor ghostly Emma were ever to find her way to CapeTown, he would bring her along one Thursday afternoon to showher what bliss can be: a moderate bliss, a moderated bliss.

Then one Saturday morning everything changes. He is in the cityon business; he is walking down St George's Street when his eyesfall on a slim figure ahead of him in the crowd. It is Soraya,unmistakably, flanked by two children, two boys. They arecarrying parcels; they have been shopping.

He hesitates, then follows at a distance. They disappear intoCaptain Dorego's Fish Inn. The boys have Soraya's lustrous hairand dark eyes. They can only be her sons.

He walks on, turns back, passes Captain Dorego's a second time.The three are seated at a table in the window. For an instant,through the glass, Soraya's eyes meet his.

He has always been a man of the city, at home amid a flux ofbodies where eros stalks and glances flash like arrows. But thisglance between himself and Soraya he regrets at once.

At their rendezvous the next Thursday neither mentions theincident. Nonetheless, the memory hangs uneasily over them. Hehas no wish to upset what must be, for Soraya, a precarious doublelife. He is all for double lives, triple lives, lives lived incompartments. Indeed, he feels, if anything, greater tenderness forher. Your secret is safe with me, he would like to say.

But neither he nor she can put aside what has happened. Thetwo little boys become presences between them, playing quiet asshadows in a corner of the room where their mother and thestrange man couple. In Soraya's arms he becomes, fleetingly, theirfather: foster-father, step-father, shadow-father. Leaving her bedafterwards, he feels their eyes flicker over him covertly, curiously.

His thoughts turn, despite himself to the other father, the real one. Does he have any inkling of what his wife is up to, or has heelected the bliss of ignorance?

He himself has no son. His childhood was spent in a family ofwomen. As mother, aunts, sisters fell away, they were replaced indue course by mistresses, wives, a daughter. The company ofwomen made of him a lover of women and, to an extent, awomanizer. With his height, his good bones, his olive skin, hisFlowing hair, he could always count on a degree of magnetism. Ifhe looked at a woman in a certain way, with a certain intent, shewould return his look, he could rely on that. That was how helived; for years, for decades, that was the backbone of his life.

Then one day it all ended. Without warning his powers fled.Glances that would once have responded to his slid over, past, throughhim. Overnight he became a ghost. If he wanted a woman he had tolearn to pursue her; often, in one way or another, to buy her.

He existed in an anxious hurry of promiscuity. He had affairswith the wives of colleagues; he picked up tourists in bars on the waterfront or at the Club Italia; he slept with whores.

His introduction to Soraya took place in a dim little sitting-room off the front office of Discreet Escorts, with Venetian blindsover the windows, pot plants in the corners, stale smoke hangingin the air. She was on their books under 'Exotic'. The photographshowed her with a red passion-flower in her hair and the faintestof lines at the corners of her eyes. The entry said 'Afternoons only'.That was what decided him: the promise of shuttered rooms, coolsheets, stolen hours.

From the beginning it was satisfactory, just what he wanted. Abull's eye. In a year he has not needed to go back to the agency.Then the accident in St George's Street, and the strangeness thathas followed. Though Soraya still keeps her appointments, he feelsa growing coolness as she transforms herself into just anotherwoman and him into just another client.

He has a shrewd idea of how prostitutes speak among them-selves about the men who frequent them, the older men inparticular. They tell stories, they laugh, but they shudder too, asone shudders at a cockroach in a washbasin in the middle of' thenight. Soon, daintily, maliciously, he will be shuddered over. It isa fate he cannot escape.

On the fourth Thursday after the incident, as he is leaving theapartment, Soraya makes the announcement he has been steelinghimself against. 'My mother is ill. I'm going to take a break to lookafter her. I won't be here next week.'

'Will I see you the week after?'

'I'm not sure. It depends on how she gets on. You had betterphone first.'

'I don't have a number.'


'Phone the agency. They'll know.'

He waits a few days, then telephones the agency. Soraya? Sorayahas left us, says the man. No, we cannot put you in touch with her,that would be against house rules. Would you like an introductionto another of our hostesses? Lots of exotics to choose from — Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, you name it.

He spends an evening with another Soraya — Soraya hasbecome, it seems, a popular nom de commerce — in a hotel room inLong Street. This one is no more than eighteen, unpractised, to hismind coarse. 'So what do you do?' she says as she slips off herclothes. 'Export-import,' he says. "You don't say,' she says.

There is a new secretary in his department. He takes her tolunch at a restaurant a discreet distance from the campus andlistens while, over shrimp salad, she complains about her sons'school. Drug-pedlars hang around the playing-fields, she says, andthe police do nothing. For the past three years she and herhusband have had their name on a list at the New Zealandconsulate, to emigrate. 'You people had it easier. I mean, whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, at least you knewwhere you were.'

'You people? he says. 'What people?'

'I mean your generation. Now people just pick and choosewhich laws they want to obey. It's anarchy. How can you bring upchildren when there's anarchy all around?'

Her name is Dawn. The second time he takes her out they stop at his house and have sex. It is a failure. Bucking and clawing, sheworks herself into a froth of excitement that in the end only repelshim. He lends her a comb, drives her back to the campus.

After that he avoids her, taking care to skirt the office where sheworks. In return she gives him a hurt look, then snubs him.

He ought to give up, retire from the game. At what age, hewonders, did Origen castrate himself? Not the most graceful ofsolutions, but then ageing is not a graceful business. A clearing ofthe decks, at least, so that one can turn one's mind to the properbusiness of the old: preparing to die.

Might one approach a doctor and ask for it? A simple enoughoperation, surely: they do it to animals every clay, and animalssurvive well enough, if one ignores a certain residue of sadness.Severing, tying off: with local anesthetic and a steady hand and amodicum of phlegm one might even do it oneself, out of atextbook. A man on a chair snipping away at himself: an ugly sight,but no more ugly, from a certain point of view, than the same manexercising himself on the body of a woman.

There is still Soraya. He ought to close that chapter. Instead, hepays a detective agency to track her down. Within days he has herreal name, her address, her telephone number. He telephones atnine in the morning, when the husband and children will be out.'Soraya? he says. 'This is David. How are you? When can I seeyou again?

A long silence before she speaks. 'I don't know who you are she says. 'You are harassing me in my own house. I demand you will never phone me here again, never.'

Demand. She means command. Her shrillness surprises him: therehas been no intimation of it before. But then, what should apredator expect when he intrudes into the vixen's nest, into thehome of her cubs?

He puts down the telephone. A shadow of envy passes over himfor the husband he has never seen.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

" Disgrace is not a hard or obscure book-it is, among other things, compulsively readable-but what it may well be is an authentically spiritual document, a lament for the soul of a disgraced century."
-The New Yorker

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Disgrace 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 105 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
J.M. Coetzee's 'Disgrace' is a complex and moving tale about a middle-aged professor who realizes that his best days are behind him. Like many men who go through a mid-life crisis, he tries to convince himself that he is still full of desire and passion and that women still find him desirable. 'Disgrace,' however, is about much more than a man who simply fears growing old. It is also a commentary on social relations between people: between men and women, father and daughter, races, cultures, lifestyles, and of the social structures in post apartheid South Africa. The novel's protagonist, David Lurie, goes on a journey to rediscover who he is and to find meaning in his life. What he discovers and doesn't discover about life is for the reader to figure out. 'Disgrace' is a very compelling and well-written novel by an author at the top of his form. Coetzee's characterizations and witty dialogue are, in particular, to be commended.
cheeriosLS More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading Disgrace and took it slow not wanting to miss a thing. Coetzee is a powerful writer who doesn't beat around the bush with long drawn out sentences. He writes with integrity and courage. The 220 pages were packed with grim truth and intelligent potency.
Whitegold More than 1 year ago
To those unfamiliar with South African writer J.M. Coetzee, DISGRACE is a powerful introduction to this Nobel Prize and two-time Booker Prize-winning author. In the best tradition of those writers who seem to chisel their words with great care -- in order to elicit the most meaning and effect -- Coetzee has fashioned a modern gem that challenges readers to explore themes and issues they might find disturbing and difficult to confront: sexuality, retribution, racial tensions, generational conflict, violence, human indifference, and profound shame. Amid all these strifes, at its core DISGRACE is about forgiveness -- a forgiveness that many Americans and other Westerners could find hard to understand. In the end, "disgraced" Professor David Lurie and his shareholding daughter are forced to confront their most basic and brutal personal tragedy in the larger context of an equally violent societal holocaust -- and somehow make their separate peace. DISGRACE is one of those books that lives with you long after the last page is turned, and in your hearts of hearts you know you must revisit again.
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
BkC 18) Coetzee, J.M., [DISGRACE]: Wonderful writing, is there a story here?I think I must have been in a foul humor when I wrote that. There is indeed a story here.About disgrace, about the taking of grace from another being, about the horrors of which grace, in its religious meaning, is capable of holding back.David Lurie, fifty-two, isn't a bad man. He isn't a good man, either. He is a human male possessed of a libido and enough facility of mind and tongue to service that libido's demands. This means he is also capable of performing, to the absolute minimum standard, the demands of teaching the youth of Cape Town, South Africa, a subject barely worthy of attention: "Communication." Not, you will note, English, or a language, but the abstraction of communication, whole and entire.Bah. Modern "education" rots. So David, after he loses his erotic focus Soraya, leaves it and Cape Town behind to join his daughter Lucy in the countryside. She has a farm there, and it is the farm that leads to dis-grace, the shedding of grace, the negation of grace, for father and daughter alike. Horrors occur that I have no desire to relate to you, and that should keep those readers whose anxiety buttons are easily engaged far, far away from this book.I don't think Coetzee likes people too terribly much.The ending is the final act of dis-grace. I strongly strongly urge dog-lovers not to read the ending. Put it this way: I'd love the ending had it featured a cat. Now, does that scare y'all off? Good.But the writing. Oh me, oh my.A rik to own anything: a car, a pair of shoes, a packet of cigarettes. Not enough to go around, not enough cars, shoes, cigarettes. Too many people, too few things. What there is must go into circulation, so that everyone can have a chance to be happy for a day. That is the theory; hold to the theory and to the comforts of theory. Not human evil, just a vast circulatory system, to whose workings pity and terror are irrelevant. That is how one must see life in this country: in its schematic aspect. Otherwise one could go mad.Thus the musings of a father after a horrific crisis. David Lurie is dis-graced. Grace is no longer part of David Lurie's mental furniture, and while he fights it for over 100pp, in the end, at the ending, David Lurie accepts his fate:He is disgraced.
NotSunkYet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The choices the characters made didn't make sense to me. I think the book tried to make those choices culturally based but the book doesn't give much meat to the culture in order to make the decisions seem realistic.
kattepusen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A powerful portrait of a nation in transition!The story is a great read in itself - interesting plot, excellent character developments, and full of surprises - and it is all conveyed in the simplest spartan language, at times a bit too "edited". The protagonist remains sympathetic, even during his failures as a professor, father figure, and as a human being in general. However, as a symbolic read, the novel works quite well, although a bit predicably, in conveying the trembling emergence of the new South Africa - its promise, confusion, instability, brutality and potential.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David Lurie is a 50-something university professor, twice divorced. He's not particularly skilled at relationships. Perhaps he doesn't even understand what a relationship truly is, since early on he assumes that weekly encounters with a prostitute constitute some kind of more permanent bond. When the prostitute leaves town, David finds himself without female companionship and makes the even more egregious error of striking up an affair with a student. Of course this is discovered, and David leaves the university in disgrace. He visits his adult daughter Lucy, who runs a small farm and dog kennel in a rough and sometimes dangerous part of rural South Africa. At first it seems David will ease into the slower pace of country life, come to terms with the wrong he has done to others, and potentially make peace. But Coetzee has other plans, and visits upon David and Lucy an horrific act of violence resulting in even more disgrace, this time affecting both of them. Their emotional recovery -- individually and collectively -- is at the center of this novel.David is not a particularly likable character. He is so interpersonally inept that he nearly always makes the wrong choice. I didn't really care whether he recovered from his ordeal; in many cases he got what he deserved. Lucy, on the other hand, was a more sympathetic figure. A lesbian abandoned by her partner just before David's arrival, she is fiercely independent. She is committed to making her farm successful, despite the danger of being a woman alone in that part of the country. She resists David's attempt to protect her (a natural response for a father, but still unwelcome). And yet despite her independence and strong will, when faced with a situation requiring legal action, she prefers to give in and try to make peace herself. She succeeds to some degree, but with tremendous personal sacrifice.Disgrace raised up many ethical and moral issues, prompting me to consider how I might handle similar situations. Interesting reading.
Laura400 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disgrace is an amazing book, perhaps my favorite by Coetzee. As with all his work, the writing is strong and clear. The story is set in contemporary South Africa. Coetzee is unsparing in this novel. He does not shy from ugliness, or brutality, or racial issues, and this is a difficult book in many ways. It's not a feel-good or fun story.Even in his autobiographical novels, Coetzee often presents his narrator as a very flawed man with feet of clay. But in this novel he goes farther and makes the narrator nearly irredeemable. And of course because it's Coetzee, he's a wonderful character who comes vividly to life. Though the narrator does change somewhat in the novel's third act, after a terrible incident, there is no upbeat ending. No happy resolution.But it is a beautiful, searing story that will stay with you.
icolford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disgrace is the work of one of the best novelists in the English language writing at the top of his form. More nuanced than a simple tale of moral transgression and redemption, it is also a story of clashing cultures and a society that has made no headway against historically motivated racial divisions that occasionally boil over into violence. David Lurie's affair with a student is uncovered when the student reports him to the university, but when he is called upon to answer for his behaviour he responds with haughty indignation, refusing "on principle" to issue a public apology. He resigns his post and, essentially blacklisted, retreats from the city to live with his daughter, Lucy, on her farm in a remote corner of the Eastern Cape. Here he encounters first hand the tensions and incongruities of a society divided along racial lines, and one afternoon Lucy's home is invaded by a team of three black men who rape her and assault her father. In the aftermath of the attack, the differences between David and Lucy that he had detected as minor flaws in their relationship are magnified until he is forced to leave. As the story progresses, David becomes more and more isolated by attitudes that are not in keeping with the new reality in which he finds himself. Solace is elusive, but he does find it, in a most surprising place. Coetzee's Booker prize winning novel is tersely narrated in clipped prose that heightens the tension and gives the story a visceral urgency that makes it riveting and unforgettable.
berthirsch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel depicts the downfall of a 50'ish year old literature professor whose life is torn apart by his misogynist acts. He beds a young co-ed who is also his student . THis results in the disgrace of the title as he first tries to defend his actions as the natural acts of a healthy libido only to be disbarred from the university, shunned by neighbors he seeks refuge via visiting his only daughter who now lives in the rural sections of South Africa.The books is surely a metaphor for the state of affairs white South Africans find themselves in. The older generation unable to find resolution while their children search for a way to make amends with their African brothers. From the arc of this tale Coetzee depicts a pessimistic future frought with despair, violence and displacement.Additionally this book can be viewed as a depiction of the ungraceful aging process of an intellectualized cut off man who is lost as he tries to balance his sexual drives with his need to gracefully move into an "elder" role. Again here Coetzee suggests a failed attempt and he very much harkens to the recent novels of Philip Roth (without the humor that Roth still posesses).
trinityM82 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A melancholy novel set in the South Africa of now chronicling the life of Professor David Lurie and his relationship with women now that he has become "old" at 52. he believed he was the servant of passion and finds no wrong in his behavior. He is a womanizer, a collector of young women. In disgrace he goes to live with his lesbian doaughter Lucy on her farm in the country. He tries to settle into his old age, his dottishness while working at an Animal clinic and trying to fit into a workable relationship with his daughter. He is also trying to write an opera about Byron, though he has too little passion to make a go of it.
brian_james on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A little surprised at the overwhelming response this novel has received. It was pretty good, but I don't think it lived up to the hype. I found it hard to put down, though, which is more than I can usually say for a novel with so little actual plot.
Jacey25 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Had to read it; hated it, hated the people in it & hated the professor who assigned it. The only thing that sticks in my mind about this book is how much I disliked it.
Gary10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Story of a professor who has a disgraceful affair with a student and whose daughter experiences disgrace as a rape victim. Plot intertwined with the complexities and complications of post-apartheid South Africa.
lorraineh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Totally uninspiring book, well written but completely forgettable. In fact I read only recently and I cannot rememer the story.Its won many a prize but not in my world.
AlexAustin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A disgraced professor is ensnarled in the horror and paradoxes of events beyond his control. Here comes everybody. A terrifying, intelligent, provocative story.
kencrowe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
J. M. Coetzee is the South African writer who won the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature,DISGRACE is a piece of literary writing without pretensions of being literary. Coetzee is so commanding a writer that it just is literary. The story flows easily, the writing is relatively simple and very engaging. I was drawn into the world of the protagonist David Lurie, a 52-year-old twice-divorced, college professor in Cape Town, South Africa.Sex is the center of his life; with prostitutes, with students, with hungry women. An affair he pressed on a 19 or 20 year student plunges him into disgrace in the minds of everyone but himself. He is so extraordinarily self-centered and arrogant he isn¿t aware of the impropriety of what he did with the student. His arrogance prevents him humbling himself to save his job and his pension. He didn¿t like his job anyhow. He had no respect for his students, and a strong distaste for his teaching. His dream is to write an opera about Bryon and one of his many mistresses, Teresa, a young Italian woman, only 19, recently married, whom Byron has dumped. Teresa, however, longs for Byron for the remainder of her life. Their affair was a transforming experience for her. In the aftermath of being forced from his teaching post, Lurie goes into the backcountry of South Africa, where his daughter, Lucy, a lesbian whose lover has abandoned her, is running a small farm with the help of Petrus, a hired black African. Lucy doesn¿t respect her father, who like so many, if not almost all, parents still wants to run his daughter¿s life, assuming that he knows what is best for her no matter how much she resists. On a day the black African, Petrus, isn¿t around, two black men and a youth appear at Lucy¿s farm. Lurie, who is suspicious of the three from the outset, is shoved into a bathroom and locked in with little resistance on his part. Dealing with predators, Lurie acts as though talking to them will make them go away. His daughter is raped and impregnated; the three pour mineral oil on Lurie and set him afire, laughing at him. They steal his car and whatever they find valuable at the farm. Lurie¿s burns are painful and embarrassing, but not devastatingly serious. He comes across as a wimp at best and a coward at worst, a man so civilized that he has lost the capability of fighting in the face of superior odds no matter what the outcome. Later in the book, he comes across the youth involved in the attack on Lucy and bats him around¿an easier task than fighting two strong, determined, violent men. It turns out that the boy is a relative of Petrus¿ and Petrus has designs on Lucy¿s farm. Petrus owns the land next door. Petrus is used to illustrate the shift in power in South Africa in that he decides he will no longer farm for Lucy and that if she wants to fall under his protection she has to become his third wife or concubine¿not that he really wants her sexually, but because he wants to own the land and dominate his little world. Lucy is willing to go along with that arrangement if Petrus will guarantee she can keep her house. She is just as empty as her father, but in a different way. The two grown predators were more interested in demeaning the once dominate whites, Lurie and Lucy, than in robbing them. They use rape to illustrate the shift in power in post-apartheid South Africa. Perhaps there is play on the issue of rape domination since Lurie used his dominant role as a professor to impose himself sexually on a young woman, which is a subtle form of rape/domination. The earthy Africans used the old fashioned approach to physically forcing themselves on the white woman, Lucy, in their exercise of domination/rape. There is an interesting subplot of the fascination and lure of creativity with Lurie locked into his opera, living in his mind. But the emptiness and self-centeredness and selfishness of the professor is driven home at the end of the book when he allows a crippled stray dog, who has come to love him and depen
Mromano on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting shorter novel whose protagonist is a disgraced teacher who is accused of sexually violating one of his students. His relationship to her as well as his student is compared and contrasted to the much more brutal crime committed against his sister with whom he stays later on. The race relations of South Africa are addressed within the context of the crime and the larger context of the racism in its history. I particularly liked the size of the novel (it is short) and its pace as it moves steadily towards and interesting climax.
Steve38 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first of Mr Coetzee's books that I have read and it's not surprising that he is a Nobel and Booker prize winner. Well written, well structured, thoughtful and relevant. All the things any novelist aspires to. The only criticism I have is that it all runs along too quickly, too smoothly, too well. The story feels like it needs room to breathe a little. Perhaps the opportunity for social commentary was too strong a driver.
banjo123 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can see why Coetzee is an award-winning novelist. His writing is like butter; deceptively simple and rich. In [Disgrace] he covers themes of sexual politics and sexual violence, post-colonialism; race; the urban/rural divide; animal rights and father-daughter relations. And he does it in just over 200 pages, without seeming rushed. The butter¿s a little rancid (I mean that in a good way) and the book is difficult to read at times. The protagonist, David Lurie is a creepy English professor who has a sexual relationship with a student, and loses his job as a result. The book describes how Lurie deals with the sequelae of that event. I was particularly struck by the way Coetzee shows similarities between how women and animals are viewed. Neither is accorded the power to control their own body. In the beginning of the book, Melanie, the student, is trying to resist Lurie. He tells her ¿a woman¿s beauty does not belong to her alone. It is part of the bounty she brings into the world. She has a duty to share it.¿ Later, Lurie is irritated by the way an African farmer is treating sheep. He notes ¿Sheep do not own themselves, do not own their lives. They exist to be used, every last ounce of them¿..¿I finished this book a few days ago, and have been thinking about it since.
magicians_nephew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disgrace is an amazing little J. M. Coetze novel that I read for a book group. I had read and loved his "Foe" (a take on the Robinson Crusoe tale) and was ready to enjoy this one. God what a writer!. Simple sentences - this is not a man who shoots off Roman candles - but sentences and descriptions that stick in the mind long after you put the book down. David Lurie is a twice divorced professor of "Communication" at a technical college in Cape Town South Africa. His regular sexual outlet - an obliging prostitute - is suddenly removed from his life and he begins an ill-starred relationship with a female student. Seduction? Rape? Stalking? Can't find the word to describe this inappropriate relationship but it comes out and - hit-in-the-head number one - he has to leave his position and leave Cape Town. He goes to live with his adult daughter and - hit-on-the-head number two - their small holding is invaded by a group of black men and the daughter is raped.Judy almost didn't want to read this book because of its grim nature - and grim it is as David faces his own limitations of action and understanding in the new post apartheid South Africa. Impossible to summarize the many threads of the plot. David is working on an opera about Lord Byron in Italy - and the opera morphs and contracts as his life morphs and contracts. While with his daughter he befriends (wrong word - can't find the right word) a neighbor woman who runs a volunteer animal clinic and learns about caring and mercy. Disgrace in the precise term means "a lack of grace". To be in "a State of Grace" means to be in the presence of God. God is not mentioned much in this book but that side of it was in my mind as I read it. Haunting and beautiful.Fundamentally, all writing is about the same thing; it's about dying, about the brief flicker of time we have here, and the frustration that it creates.
JediJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really compelling - I'm not sure I liked any of the characters really - especially not the male protaganist - but somehow it seemed to strike a chord. Perhaps it was because it was such a brutally honest book that it resonated on a fundamentally human level. Definitely wanting to read something else by Coetzee - it reminded me a lot of Ian McEwan ....
stveggy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Right up there with Cry, The Beloved country - a moving portrait of life in S Africa
fieldnotes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read Coetzee after going on a binge of African literature. Given his world-historical and cultural position, I couldn't help being bothered to the point of acute aggravation by the fact that "Disgrace" seems like propaganda--excellently disguised, subtle, hand-wringing propaganda against the good hopes of his country. The whole time I was in South Africa it was impossible to avoid being besieged by white people who sought to poison my own conception of their black countrymen. This was especially irksome because white or wealthy people from other countries are more ready to absorb the judgments (and prejudices) of white South Africans than other Africans with whom they do not identify so easily. My own sense of the continent could not be more different from the prevailing sense of that demographic. I never forget Richard Rorty's explanation (I think it's in "contingency, irony and solidarity" or "philosophy and social hope") that we should replace dickering about ethics with a commitment to expanding people's circles of empathy and that the most expedient and respectful way to do this is through narrative and story-telling. Coetzee impacts the global perception of South Africa whenever he writes or speaks. And "Disgrace" for all of its craft and merit, is a hopeless and back-broken book that feeds into stereotypes and cynicism that are better left unfed.
HHS-Staff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For two years, my esteemed comrade Mr. Boland has implored me to read DISGRACE. This weekend, I did. It is truly among the best novels I have ever read. Coetzee is a white South African emigrated to Australia, and, among other things, this novel is about life in post-apartheid South Africa. But that's just scratching the surface: it's also about culture clash, gender, aging, animals, parenthood, sexuality, ethics, mortality, morality, and much more. And, despite its complexity, it's intensely readable; I consumed its 220 pages in about three hours. However, it's not the place to go for easy answers about human nature--which is why Mr. Boland's students will be lucky if they get to read it as a class. The 1999 Booker Prize Winner.Reviewed by:Phil OvereemLanguage Arts teacher