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.
As others have said, this is an intense, disturbing book. Coetzee's style is spare, and he does not delve much into description of either physical or emotional landscapes. He provides just what's necessary to lay out his tale, and the emotions he evokes seem all the more powerful for the understated way in which they are called forth. The story is told from the perspective of a white South African professor, in his 50's, who has been professionally disgraced, and his relationship with his daughter, Lucy, who must deal with her own form of disgrace, not for anything she has done, but as a legacy of apartheid. Issues of gender and race swirl throughout the book, as well as themes of brutality and love. It is a complex, beautiful book, which can be read quickly, but which will not be forgotten soon.
I'm willing to read something else by Coetzee, figuring he must have been awarded the Nobel Prize for some reason - but I didn't care for this book. Setting aside the fact that the protagonist and narrator is a highly unsympathetic character - and a lot of readers, especially female ones, may not be able to get past that - I didn't feel that the other characters were fully developed. Instead, they seemed to symbolize various political viewpoints in an allegory of contemporary South Africa.
Sorry Mr. Coetzee .... I was disappointed in your book.
It has two fragmented themes running through the story.
Maybe I just did not "get it."
I enjoyed the real story - the one about the professor and his daughter and wished it could have gone on to reveal a conclusion.
However the secondary story that wove between the pages, the one about Byron and his love life - well I just did not get it.
This book left me feeling relieved that it was over!
At fifty-two, Professor David Lurie is a disgraced man. He is divorced, filled with desire but lacking passion. An affair with one of his students has ultimately left him without a position and without friends. Except for his estranged daughter, Lucy, who works on her remote South African farm with her neighbor, Petrus, an African farmer who now lives a life of modest prosperity.
David decides to leave the city and moves in with Lucy and her partner, in an attempt to achieve a better relationship with his daughter. He has plans for the future to write an opera about Lord Byron and his Italian mistress, Contessa Teresa Guiccioli. Instead, David finds a job working with Bev - Lucy's friend and an animal welfare volunteer, who also works as an unofficial veterinarian.
Lucy and David's relationship is extremely strained to begin with - there is much from their past that they need to reconcile - and the situation becomes even more critical when they are the victims of a vicious and horrifying attack. I have to say that I'm not exactly sure why I waited so long to read this book, except that there are so many other books that I wanted to read as well, that this one kind of got lost in the shuffle for a time. It was beautifully written and very thought-provoking - just the sort of story that I love to read - I give this book a big, blazing A+!
This is such an intense book. It will get under your skin for so many reasons. It's not an easy book to read, but yet I could not put it down. Everyone I know who read this book thought it was quite amazing.
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? Highly recommended!
Haunting story of an egotistical, middle-aged professor who starts pushing the boundaries of what middle-aged professors should do. Adultery and other hijinks ensue, which make you hate him but continue to read on...
This book won the Booker Prize in 1999. The following is from Amazon.com: 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
Loved this fast moving drama. Quick read, well written. I can see why it won the Nobel for literature. Fascinating topic, felt like a true story... Read it over holidays and it definitely distracted me from the usual stress. A good book to get lost in.
This is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. The characters are believable and contemporary,issues and points of view are well shaped and it has educated me in the politics of South Africa more clearly than other sources. I enjoyed meeting a new author, I will definetly read more of Coetze!
This was a thought-provoking story. I am pretty sure I'd be as frustrated with my daughter as Lurie was. But in the same token, I was equally as frustrated with Lurie at the beginning of the book. So much so, I almost didn't finish it. But I am certainly glad I stuck with it, because its a story that really made me think. How does one react to the circumstances that the protaganist and his daughter lived through?
Lets see. A professor of poetry, twice married, twice divorced, loses his weekly action when his strumpet hangs up her diaphragm. What to do. Hey, why not hit on one of his young students. He does. They do it. She files a discrimination complaint. Wow! But, have I read much of this before? And, by a Nobelist? Shades of Saul Bellow (The Professor of Desire)! A book, copyright 1999, by another white South African Nobelist, about bullroar that was popular 30 years ago. Lets get up-to-date. These days this happens in middle school. So he admits his guilt. Wait though! The university cannot accept that at face value; they must have more. In short, they must have a way of ameliorating their own status in the public eye. So all of this to get him to resign his job and to take up with a daughter on her remote farm. More trouble. Now into the post-apartheid struggles of South Africa. Somehow this fits more readily than the prolonged introductory part. Im not sure that anyone will like the ending, if it is an ending, and if it is an ending, then why is it an ending?
I just finished this book and I found it very disturbing. I admit it has a real feel to it that is poetic at times and has you sympathizing for the main character. The ending left me feeling depressed and wishing for more redemption. A good but emotional read.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. For a very short novel (not even 250 pages long), it was surprisingly powerful. The narrator, however, was not terribly likable... but not completely hate-able either. I think more than anything what really took me by surprise was the abundance of sex and violence. Not to mention all of the poor dogs... It was a sad and horrifying book, and still very interesting. It made me more curious about South Africa as a setting, too.
Read for my book group for the month of August. This was a powerful book that left feeling weak & out of control. There are not a lot of books that I have read that could really leave me feeling this way. I was shocked by the callous way Lucy saw herself & her lack of self-esteem truly affected me. David is an interesting character that attracted & repelled me at the same time. Here is a review from amazon.
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.
Jessee- S. reviewed Disgrace (Windsor Selection) on
Very depressing and disturbing. The book is well-written by an accomplished writer, but the end result is the question, "Why bother creating a thoroughly ugly experience?" I threw the book away in stead of passing it on to anyone.
National bestseller and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Booker Prize. This is a story of a man in his 50's, well established in his career as a professor, and his relationships with two women: a student he has an affair with and his daughter. The novel begins in London and moves to South Africa about half way through. As the back cover says, "...an incident of unimaginable terror and violence forces father and daughter to confront their strained relationship --and the equally complicated racial complexities of South Africa."