I picked up this book on the recommendation of a well-read friend. It did not disappoint.
The subject matter of this book is not at all easy to digest, and in another author's less capable hands it would merely be an uncomfortable shock to the reader. Coetzee's superb mastery of the written word enables you to become an unseen participant in a world that is as intriguing as it is disturbing. I was riveted by the complicated individuals that populate this book, the equally complicated and sometimes brutal environment they live in, and found myself alternately rooting for or scolding them for the decisions they made. Any writer that can affect me so with their characters is a master. But more than that, the world he creates is so real I found myself wondering what I would do, what decisions I would make... truly broadening and enlightening.
This is the first book that I have read by Coetzee and intend to seek out more of his work.
Though well-written, this book is a bewildering look at the life of an amoral academic with whom it is fantastically difficult to empathize. He makes all the wrong moves at all the wrong times, and leads you to wonder, first, how he's managed to survive into his 50s, and second, how he's going to keep it up. The one thing I did enjoy about the book was the look into rural white South African life, which reveals just where the real differences, between the United States/Europe and the "developed" countries in Africa, lie.
I just finished Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee. It had been sitting on my shelf for a while and on Saturday I saw a really wonderful and moving exhibit of David Goldblatt's photography at The New Museum and was inspired to read it. It's pretty remarkable. It paints a really disturbing portrait of contemporary South Africa. It's not a difficult read, but it is a harrowing one.
This was my first Coetzee book and I was pretty much blown away. The relationship between the father and daughter felt as real and complicated as actual life. Nothing was simple, nothing was pat. I spent some time in South Africa a few years ago and reading this book was such a vivid experience, I could smell Africa. I don't know how in a 200 page book the complexities of such a troubled country could be painted so acutely, but Coetzee has somehow managed it.