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Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Disgrace (original 1999; edition 2000)

by J.M. Coetzee

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7,515173459 (3.86)517
Authors:J.M. Coetzee
Info:Vintage (2000), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:contemporary fiction

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Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (1999)

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English (150)  Dutch (8)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  German (2)  Italian (2)  Hebrew (2)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Greek (1)  All languages (173)
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I was doing okay and then it just got so grim and violent and I couldn't take it any more. A different Coetzee novel will have to be my introduction to him.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
When I was in grad school for my first M.A., not a week went by during which someone didn't come up to me after class and say, "I just read this book by J.M. Coetzee and there's some animal stuff in it you might want to check out..." (since I "do" species discourse). But I think that even if you're not particularly fond of deconstructing social constructions of animals in contemporary culture, Disgrace is a fine, fine read. ( )
  Seven.Stories.Press | Jun 13, 2014 |
did not enjoy this book. the subject matter was not something i enjoy reading. plus the main character is unlikable and his daughter is such a sad and frustrating character. ( )
  jodiesohl | May 18, 2014 |
An interesting book, but one that I felt was trying to be too clever to the detriment of the story. Not a comfortable read - the characters are unlikeable and the ending is depressing. ( )
  cazfrancis | May 6, 2014 |
This is all very quixotic, Professor Lurie, but can you afford it?We've started going over the terms of tragedy in one of my classes, working through the definition before setting off on our reading of Othello. One of these delineations uttered by my professor went along the lines of the difference between 'unfortunate accident' and 'tragedy', the death of the main character's lover and said main character's succumbing to a fatal flaw, respectively. I say, if that is indeed the linguistic case, one must put more effort into identifying when a tragedy is not ineptly fueled by too many flippantly composed unfortunate accidents. Women in Refrigerators Syndrome, a particularly rampant example of the old adages of esteemed literature working themselves out in unacceptably lazy fashions.

As much as I love literature, I know better than to look to the pasts calcified in both deed and color for a lifelong methodology. The past is a different country, and this disgraced David Lurie is a dinosaur of the worst sensibilities. Despicable, and yet quiet, riding the degraded rails of an older world in a passable sort of grace so long as his mum's the word, exemplifying one of my main tenets for the freedom of speech: there is no change without communication. Communication isn't moral or immoral. Humanity is, and will not learn the difference between the two if interchange is in any way restricted.

Lurie is restricted. The use of the phrase 'political correctness' in the summary, right there at the forefront of what countless use to determine whether they will read this book or not, says that plainly. If that doesn't prove it, his later actions confirm without a doubt. Hypocrisy, double standard, bigotry. The same old words, the same old story, the only difference being in how Coetzee handles this fallen hero of his, this old geezer who spends people as easily as money, especially women. For there is no sympathy here for any of that, and woe to any fed full on the public bursting of that usual single souled rot who have come here expecting more of the same. If you find yourself in concurrence with this David Lurie, well. You said it, not me.

In that manner, Disgrace fails to be a tragedy. The main character is dislikeable on an instinctive level, enough that his supposed fall from grace appears as obviously very much his fault and his alone. Appears, as it is true by technicality that he is "overcome by a combination of social and psychological circumstances". Appears, as this is my personal reception of this piece, and if you've been reading me long enough you know where my biases lie, and how I feel the need to express them. So, perhaps not so much a failure of a tragedy after all, but one that snips away at the base of ancient definition and shreds the decrepit ways of black and white to pieces. For there is black and white here as well, but in a sense that is constantly straining to escape the usual context, never offering the same meaning twice to both reads and rereads. A favorite facet of mine.

Much as the idea of ending the review with only Lurie having been discussed to any extent annoys me, I don't have much to say in terms of the other characters. Then again, I usually don't have much to say about characters in general, so it is most likely an inevitable side effect of the single standpoint of narration. Be sure, though, that the refrigerated women will have their say.

Also, the tragedy. All that hamminess in the limelight that never extended the fault outside of the characters and into the author. Despite the cloying ease with which the text spools out, it remains clear at every instant that Coetzee is not writing himself out in some pleading exercise of explanation. A breath of fresh air, in a convoluted, reflexive sense of the phrase.

Redemption, you ask? Mm. Depends on your predilection for happy endings, as well the structure of the story itself. If you wish to redeem any of them, you would needs deliver Lurie first and foremost. It's only fitting in the linguistic sense of this tale. Whether 'tis fair or just or correct is another matter entirely. ( )
1 vote Korrick | Feb 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 150 (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)

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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:04 -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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