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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 (190)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (4)  French (3)  German (2)  Hebrew (2)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  Greek (1)  All languages (219)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
Disgrace is full of twists and turns beyond the jacket-advertised plot. I know little of SA history but I'm guessing the 3 subplots (David, Lucy, dogs) are all in part allegories of SA during the late 90s end of apartheid. I admired this book (the writing is amazing) but did not like it. It could have at least been a tear jerker but instead just left me hopeless and empty, like a gut punch. ( )
  technodiabla | Aug 7, 2018 |
When I closed on the last page of this book, I just sat in stunned silence and stared into space. I felt a little sick and lost, over affected by the sad truths it disclosed. I did not cry, but there were tears behind my eyes pricking through much of this read, and they were not tears for these characters as much as for humanity at large.

David Lurie is not a likeable person. He is short-sighted and self-centered and amazingly insensitive. So, how is it that I ended this book wishing him well? Wishing he would find the future better than the present? That Bev Shaw’s assertion that “One gets used to things getting harder; one ceases to be surprised that what used to be as hard as hard can be grows harder yet.” will not be the truth for him always? There is a glimmer of hope growing at the end of this story that flickers like a candle flame. It might easily be blown out, but perhaps it will find a way to burn on into the future; perhaps it will save Lucy and David alike.

I have been being surprised a lot by the books I have been reading lately. I seem to have some preconceived idea about what they will entail and then find they are not that at all. This definitely falls into that category for me. I thought this was going to be about race relations in South Africa, and it is, but it is about so much more than that. It is about humanity and what unavoidable ugly choices we make, that we are not always forced into, and how we relate to others and their choices which we find completely impossible to understand. Lucy tells David that he sees her as a minor play in the story of his life, but that she believes she is at the center of her own story. And that might be the most true statement Coetzee makes. We are all the center of our own stories and everyone else is a minor player. We cannot help that. Can anyone really imagine life goes on without them? Can you think about the day after you are dead and all the people you know still getting up for breakfast and going to work...but you are not there, you do not exist? It is the hardest thing to imagine in all the world.

Huge kudos to J. M. Coetzee for tackling the big questions and weaving them into a marvelous story that grips you from beginning to end. I heartily recommend this book. I have no doubt I will be thinking about it for a long, long time. ( )
1 vote phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
A great many reviewers that I respect rated this book 4 or 5 stars and I hate to be the contrarian, but in this case, I really did not like this book. It is my first read of Coetzee, and his writing style was impressive. But for this book, I found nothing to enjoy. The main character was simply dreadful as a person, and the people that were a part of his life had few redeeming qualities. I kept waiting for some happy moment or some personality turnaround, but it never happened. The story itself never truly built to a climax - it simply just kept moving along. I don't want to say much more because I don't want to give anything away, but I finished this book feeling frustrated. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Mar 2010):
- J M Coetzee's 1999 Booker Prize novel, his first to be set in post-apartheid South Africa. He won the Nobel Prize in 2003.
- The title is perfect. The story is David Lurie's odd journey from disgrace to a modicum of redemption and peace. I love the author's writing style, which could be called spare, assured, literate, but not showy. The dialogue, characters are convincing. And a good feeling when you've discovered a writer whose other works you'll now want to consume.
- Dr David Lurie, professor of Romantics in Cape Town, is our protagonist. His students are mainly bored Communications majors. Lurie is 52, twice divorced and living alone. He spends every Thursday afternoon with a prostitute. When he bungles this arrangement by trying to forge a real relationship, his lustfulness remains, leading to a reflexive, predatory pursuit of one of his students. His impropriety inevitably leads to his downfall, made all the more certain by his stone unwillingness to express remorse, at least to the school tribunal's contentment.
- Jobless and shunned, he goes to live with his daughter, Lucy, in the rural Eastern Cape. He makes a shaky peace with his independent only child, and helps out a wily neighbor, but the pastoral calm of routine is broken by a malicious invasion. Neighborly suspicions grow. In its wake, Lurie is puzzled, then angered by Lucy's apathy, and fails in his attempt to convince her to flee the unsafe countryside. Lurie keeps his distance, finding work at a free animal clinic, where he discovers his soft heart.. His respectful care for the animals, even after their final sleep, gains Lurie an unintended redemption, and helps open his heart to find healing with his daughter, and, perhaps, with the wider community. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Apr 5, 2018 |
A disturbingly uncomfortable read about the personal effects of shifting cultural/social mores. It makes you think - what would you do if all the social rules and customs you had grown up with, that were instilled, ingrained, and part of your very identity - what if you were suddenly told that you had it all wrong? One word of warning. I typically go out of my way to avoid books where there are scenes of animals being tortured or abused. I didn't know this book had such a scene in it until it was too late. If that sort of thing disturbs you, you might want to think twice before reading this.

( )
  catzkc | Mar 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
Even though it presents an almost unrelieved series of grim moments, ''Disgrace'' isn't claustrophobic or depressing, as some of Coetzee's earlier work has been. Its grammar allows for the sublime exhilaration of accident and surprise, and so the fate of its characters -- and perhaps indeed of their country -- seems not determined but improvised.
Any novel set in post-apartheid South Africa is fated to be read as a political portrait, but the fascination of Disgrace – a somewhat perverse fascination, as some will feel – is the way it both encourages and contests such a reading by holding extreme alternatives in tension.
added by Widsith | editThe Guardian, Adam Mars-Jones (Jul 18, 1999)

» Add other authors (58 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. M. Coetzeeprimary authorall editionscalculated
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.
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De gescande versie van In ongenade die op www.bibliotheek.nl als e-boek beschikbaar is, is van een zeer slechte kwaliteit: hele woorden zijn weggevallen, afbreektekens zijn spaties geworden en lettercombinaties als 'fj' en 'ff' zijn gelezen als '@' en '='.
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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)

Fifty-two-year-old David Lurie, having lost his job and the respect of his friends and ex-wife after an affair with one of his students, retreats to his daughter's isolated small holding in South Africa where he attempts to relate to her and a society with new racial complexities.… (more)

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