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Disgrace (Penguin Essential Editions) Paperback – September 6, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 547 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (September 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036371
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (547 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,218,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I cannot recall a book so rich in theme and symbol and yet with plot and character so grounded in the here-and-now. Charting one man's fall from--and reclamation of--grace, "Disgrace" weaves metaphor that is ironic, blunt, disturbing and, ultimately, timeless around two events that could not be more contemporary: sexual harassment of a co-ed by an aging professor; and an attack by native South Africans on a white farm.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
A friend recommended this book to me, and from the beginning, with its pitiful seduction scene, I was prepared to dislike it, and the primary character, intensely. This changed, however. Both David Lurie and his daughter consistently make choices and elect to live lives that are to say the least, uncomfortable, open to question, and painful to experience vicariously. But isn't this what opening ourselves to the challenges of literature is really about? It has been some time since I read a novel so well-crafted that I left with sympathy, but not affection, for the characters. This gave me the ability to really think about the book, both while and after I read it. I couldn't sleep for an hour last night when I finished, considering the implications, the carefully layered symbolism, the situations created by the author. It may sound odd, but for once I am pleased to have been made extremely uncomfortable by a novel.
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Format: Hardcover
I cried upon completing "Disgrace," not necessarily for any of the characters in the book but because this story brings home the difficulty of living. Without sentimentality, without emotional manipulation, J.M. Coetzee draws the reader in to a captivating story laden with such weighty questions as the balance of power, sexual and racial politics, animal rights, the question of whether or not a soul exists. Set in post-Apartheid South Africa, the questions of human rights, the distribution of wealth and resources, and shifting power differentials require the reader to set aside both biases and an easy allegiance to political correctness, and read with heart alone. This book reminds me of "The Reader," by Bernhard Schlink, for its sparse prose and thick, ethical, pondering that takes the reader to a difficult but ultimately very worthwhile place.
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By mp on January 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
J.M. Coetzee is one of those modern authors, who like Graham Greene (in my reckoning), is incapable of producing bad fiction. Though alike in perhaps no other way, I am consistently amazed reading their novels at the high standard of literary quality they maintain. That said, Coetzee's 1999 novel "Disgrace" is another outstanding performance. It is an intensely human story, with a main character whose trials and tribulations seem to force readers to qualify their praise of the novel by making moral judgments on him. Written in the sparsest imaginable prose, "Disgrace" manages to convey a tremendous amount of information and emotion in the fewest possible words, making the novel apparently easy to read, but difficult to understand. Dealing with issues of aging, gender, sex, power, race, scholasticism, family, and contemporary political and economic scenearios, Coetzee's novel transcends its South African setting, capable of speaking to practically any audience.
"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.
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