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Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

Disgrace (1999)

by J. M. Coetzee

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Review: Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee. I finally decided to write a review for this book. I have been putting it off because to be honest I didn’t like the book. This is the first book I have read of J. M. Coetzee. I will say I haven’t given up on him, I will read another one of his books.

There was no oomph, enthusiasm or spice of life besides David Lurie’s provocative needs. David was a jerk and his daughter was a fair character but she didn’t even have any energy to help herself. She really had no motive to live. I feel like she was just a zombie character. The story did keep me reading till the end but not with any strong interest. The subject matter, and David’s opinions and character was dragging my personal view downward as I read.

I don’t know what else to say. We all have a right to not like a book and that’s justifiable. However, like I said I will read another one of J. M. Coetzee books. In the meantime in debating to review this book I searched for information on this author. By my surprise I found out this book provoked some controversy about the content. This I did not know before I read the book. Another known author , William E McDonald wrote a book with other contributors opinions and his own about the book Disgrace. If anyone is interested the name of the book is Encountering Disgrace by William McDonald.
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  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
i guess i'll have to read this again to see if i feel the same way about it, but this felt to me like an aging white man unable to come to terms with changing sexual and racial equality, and it really rubbed me the wrong way. i don't know if i've been reading too much commentary lately about books written by white men for white men, but i've never read a book that felt more like that than this one. and, i think because of that, all the annoyances (or worse) that i felt toward the main character or the story, i can't seem to separate from coetzee, who i'd never read before.

david lurie has "an affair" with a student of his, which looks exactly like rape, and which is never remotely described that way. (even ignoring the professor/student relationship, she expressly says no, after he plies her with alcohol. i don't know the laws in south africa, but he's committed rape three times over in the usa, and i suspect it's the same there.) so this is a story of a man who loses control of his life, from his job and his home to his relationships with friends and his daughter. the racial stuff i don't know enough about south africa to really evaluate. his character, though - it seems that we're not supposed to think of him as a bad guy (even if not a good guy) although he's completely reprehensible. his salvation in the end? i couldn't be made to give a shit.

"'...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.'" ( )
1 vote elisa.saphier | May 22, 2016 |
Michael K is one of those books that changed me just a little bit as a human being. Reading this in its wake I suppose I was hoping to be changed just that little bit more. My disappointment is no doubt reflected in my rating. There's nothing wrong with the novel. It's a well written exploration of all the permutations of disgrace. There may be a lot more going on that I picked up on. I read somewhere that it can be interpreted as an allegory on South Africa's Truth & Reconciliation Committee. I can see certain correspondences but knowing as little as I do about that I can't say whether or not it's a full-blown allegory. Either way, it's a quick, fun read. Shame about the ending. ( )
  Lukerik | Apr 7, 2016 |
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 Melanie—whom 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.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
This book was not for me. The dialogue was wooden, and I felt thoroughly unengaged throughout the whole story. I couldn't get into the mindset of any of the characters. Events would occur - many of them horrific - but they felt rather flat and distant. It's not that I wouldn't recommend the book, but definitely for a different kind of reader than myself. ( )
  hoegbottom | Jan 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 175 (next | show all)
The book is written with Coetzee's accustomed steely restraint, and is, like all his work, a masterpiece of understatement. However, there is here what seems a new note of authorial irritation, not only, as might be expected, with the perennial intractability of language and the constraints of the novel form, but with the social changes that are occurring in his country, and in the world at large.
added by rsterling | editNew York Review of Books, John Banville (pay site) (Jan 20, 2000)

» Add other authors (58 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. M. Coetzeeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Preis, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vosková, MonikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.
Follow your temperament.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143115286, Paperback)

David Lurie is hardly the hero of his own life, or anyone else's. At 52, the protagonist of Disgrace is at the end of his professional and romantic game, and seems to be deliberately courting disaster. Long a professor of modern languages at Cape Town University College, he has recently been relegated to adjunct professor of communications at the same institution, now pointedly renamed Cape Technical University:
Although he devotes hours of each day to his new discipline, he finds its first premise, as enunciated in the Communications 101 handbook, preposterous: "Human society has created language in order that we may communicate our thoughts, feelings and intentions 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 in the need to fill out with sound the overlarge and rather empty human soul.
Twice married and twice divorced, his magnetic looks on the wane, David rather cruelly seduces one of his students, and his conduct unbecoming is soon uncovered. In his eighth novel, J.M. Coetzee might have been content to write a searching academic satire. But in Disgrace he is intent on much more, and his art is as uncompromising as his main character, though infinitely more complex. Refusing to play the public-repentance game, David gets himself fired--a final gesture of contempt. Now, he thinks, he will write something on Byron's last years. Not empty, unread criticism, "prose measured by the yard," but a libretto. To do so, he heads for the Eastern Cape and his daughter's farm. In her mid-20s, Lucy has turned her back on city sophistications: with five hectares, she makes her living by growing flowers and produce and boarding dogs. "Nothing," David thinks, "could be more simple." But nothing, in fact, is more complicated--or, in the new South Africa, more dangerous. Far from being the refuge he has sought, little is safe in Salem. Just as David has settled into his temporary role as farmworker and unenthusiastic animal-shelter volunteer, he and Lucy are attacked by three black men. Unable to protect his daughter, David's disgrace is complete. Hers, however, is far worse.

There is much more to be explored in Coetzee's painful novel, and few consolations. It would be easy to pick up on his title and view Disgrace as a complicated working-out of personal and political shame and responsibility. But the author is concerned with his country's history, brutalities, and betrayals. Coetzee is also intent on what measure of soul and rights we allow animals. After the attack, David takes his role at the shelter more seriously, at last achieving an unlikely home and some measure of love. In Coetzee's recent Princeton lectures, The Lives of Animals, an aging novelist tells her audience that the question that occupies all lab and zoo creatures is, "Where is home, and how do I get there?" David, though still all-powerful compared to those he helps dispose of, is equally trapped, equally lost.

Disgrace is almost willfully plain. Yet it possesses its own lean, heartbreaking lyricism, most of all in its descriptions of unwanted animals. At the start of the novel, David tells his student that poetry either speaks instantly to the reader--"a flash of revelation and a flash of response"--or not at all. Coetzee's book speaks differently, its layers and sadnesses endlessly unfolding. --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:28 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

At fifty-two Professor David Lurie is divorced, filled with desire but lacking in passion. An affair with one of his students leaves him jobless and friendless. Except for his daughter, Lucy, who works her smallholding with her neighbor, Petrus, an African farmer now on the way to a modest prosperity. David's attempts to relate to Lucy, and to a society with new racial complexities, are disrupted by an afternoon of violence that changes him and his daughter in ways he could never have foreseen. In this wry, visceral, yet strangely tender novel, Coetzee once again tells "truths [that] cut to the bone." (The New York Times Book Review)… (more)

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