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Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

Disgrace (1999)

by J. M. Coetzee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (164)  Dutch (9)  Spanish (4)  French (2)  German (2)  Italian (2)  Hebrew (2)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Greek (1)  All languages (189)
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
I recently read 'The Rights of Desire' and got complete deja vu reading this story. I stopped in the middle to check whether there was a plagiarism scandal. Apparently not, and the books were written almost simultanously...which would suggest that the books were picking up big undercurrents in South Africa at the time. The book, and much more so with that fact about parallels with 'Rights...' made a big impression on me. I feel like I got an unsettling sense of the time in a way that I would from watching a particularly devastating film, without the brute force. Good thing.
So, race, got it. Reversal of fortunes, got it. Intergenerational love, loss of prowess with age, fascination and desire, loss, violence in fact and in desire. Delicacy of social structures and ideas. Idea that your sexy, fecund mental prowess becomes irrelevant to your potential lovers once physical attractiveness is lost. What a sad truth
Etc etc.
Anyway, I would recommend both this book and The RIghts of Desire.
  ahovde01 | Sep 6, 2015 |
This is a book I had intended to read for a long time and for which I had great expectations. However, my views are quite mixed. I always find present tense narration a bit annoying - that is one thing.
The main character is so unlikeable that even as he marginally starts to redeem himself, he is still very unappealing. His daughter frustrates him because she is a victim just like all of the women he has used.
I can see the power and wisdom of the story but it was definitely not an enjoyable book. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Jul 19, 2015 |
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. ( )
  humblewomble | Jul 14, 2015 |
No happy endings -- not of the conventional sort -- probably! My kind of book, as Mr. Coetzee is my kind of writer. ( )
  V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
I've always wondered if I'm not sophisticated enough as a reader. After all, I read this book and didn't really understand why it won the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize. I can only assume that there are deeper meanings in the story that flew right over my head.

The writing is simple and straightforward. I didn't find myself underlining any passages, which is what I tend to do when the writing is especially beautiful. The story held my attention just fine, but it certainly wasn't amazing. Professor has affair with student, gets reprimanded, goes to live on farm with adult daughter. Father and daughter become victims of violence when the home is burglarized. Daughter is raped, he is injured. The story continues meandering... He works on writing an opera... He helps at an animal welfare clinic... When it ended, I was kind of like... HUH?

There is a lot said about this being a book set in post-apartheid South Africa. Frankly, I think it could have been set in Los Angeles, where race and power issues abound. The cultural elements are subtle--very subtle. If there were political statements being made, they flew right over my head along with any other deeper meanings in the story.

For me, the most moving element of this story is the dogs. I felt more attached to the animals in the story than I did any of the humans. That probably wasn't the author's intent, but that was my experience.

I'd love to hear from people who loved this book. Enlighten me! ( )
  KimHooperWrites | Mar 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 164 (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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