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Disgrace: A Novel Paperback – August 27, 2008
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
David Lurie is a professor of "Communications" at a Cape Town university. His specialty is Romantic poets, in particular Byron. At age 52, twice divorced and finding gratification, if not fulfillment, in orchestrated liaisons with prostitutes, Lurie is a trivial version of the Byronic hero he studies. Despite his professorship, Lurie, by his own admission, is no teacher. He prefers the tag "scholar." He is in fact a manipulator, a controller.
One evening he has a chance encounter with one of his students, a 20 year-old co-ed named Melanie. He invites her for dinner and seduces her. Melanie is quickly repulsed by the idea of romance with a man more than twice her age. Lurie, though, pursues her with what he perceives to be heroic ardor. Melanie soon falls into depression. Her tatooed, goateed boyfriend-another Byronic cartoon-and her fundamentalist father--another teacher by profession, controller by action--confront Lurie and urge Melanie to file harassment charges against him. In an act of deluded Romantic martyrdom, Lurie confesses without apology to the affair, practically daring university authorities to dismiss him from his post. They oblige.
He finds refuge at his daughter Lucy's farm in the rural East Cape. There he strongly resists adaptation to country life.Read more ›
"Disgrace" tells the story of David Lurie, a 52 year old English professor with literally nothing going for him - His teaching is uninspired, his scholarly output is uninteresting, his department has been gradually phased out, and he gratifies his baser urges once a week with the same prostitute. Spotting this prostitute, Soraya, out one day with her children, David himself is spotted, and his comfortable, prosaic routine is shattered. He begins an affair with Melanie, a student in his Romanticism course. Brought up on charges of sexual impropriety, David resigns from his university position, and moves to the hinterlands to live with his daughter Lucy, a homesteading farmer and animal caregiver. The remainder of the novel follows David's attempts to put some semblance of a life together.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was required to read this book for a class about colonization. I didn't understand how this book related to colonization, even though she tried to explain it several times. Read morePublished 17 hours ago by Michael E.
The novel was rather depressing, but I read it for a book club. I have to admit discussing other people's insights and observations about the book made me appreciate it more. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Rockets Red Glare
The twice divorced prof's single focus in life is getting laid, and he gets so much you wish he'd appreciate it. Read morePublished 16 days ago by J. Rodeck
This won't be helpful but I wanted to "rate" it (not necessarily review it), so as rudimentary as this may be, I just want to say, I couldn't put it down. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Omphalos
Great writing with a great story & yet very accessible to the average person. Coetzee gets the critical recognition he deserves but not the sales even though this book is extremely... Read morePublished 19 days ago by James Montgomery
I am not into political issues normally but this book touches on the subject in a very elegant way. The content is at times, heavy and provocative to my taste. Read morePublished 1 month ago by SerialReviewer
Brilliant portrayal of the complex and changing social structure in South Africa. Every character symbolic of a wounded history and shifting hierarchy. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Miss L. Williams
I found this book disturbing and therefore I found it to be great. When a book makes you uncomfortable that is a book that deserves respect. Read morePublished 1 month ago by MJZ
Coetzee writes with conviction and paints a bleak picture of South Africa. He does not seem to be pointing fingers but rather describing what he sees happening in his native... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer