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After years teaching Romantic poetry at the Technical University of Cape Town, David Lurie, middle-aged and twice divorced, has an impulsive affair with a student. The affair sours; he is denounced and summoned before a committee of inquiry. Willing to admit his guilt, but refusing to yield to pressure to repent publicly, he resigns and retreats to his daughter Lucy's isolated smallholding. For a time, his daughter's influence and the natural rhythms of the farm promise to harmonise his discordant life. But the balance of power in the country is shifting. He and Lucy become victims of a savage and disturbing attack which brings into relief all the faultlines in their relationship.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099289524
ISBN-10: 0099289520
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 14mm)
Pages: 224
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 6-Apr-2000
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » This is a bleak, pessimistic, spare book about the new South Africa, winner of the 1999 Booker Prize. In a departure from his usual more allegorical style, Coetzee tells with searing realism the story of the disgrace of a university professor from Cape Town, David Lurie, and his subsequent wanderings in search of some sort of resolution. Lurie has an affair with a student; the student is impressionable, but far from infatuated with him. Her boyfriend intervenes and a complaint of sexual harassment is made against him. He resigns without offering any sort of defence. Coetzee mounts a searing attack on the kind of political correctness pervasive in a society which cannot control even the simplest manifestations of crime, including rape and armed robbery. When Lurie goes to live with his somewhat hippy daughter in a country district, the already dark story becomes darker still. He helps at an animal sanctuary, which becomes a procession of death; virtually all the animals are put down. Here Coetzee is evoking the prospect of a holocaust; it is disturbing. But Lurie's impressions of his daughter's black neighbour and occasional worker, a man who clearly has designs on her property, are more disturbing still. They are shot through with ambivalence. While this man is able to offer help and stability, Lurie also sees him as the face of the new realities. His daughter must either submit to these or leave. Armed robbers arrive at the property; they set Lurie alight and rape his daughter. His daughter's reaction, to Laurie's horror, is a sort of acceptance. This is Coetzee's point: the whites in South Africa are going to have to accept new realities or leave the country. These realities include the debasement of language and the acceptance of warlordism and naked power. Lurie is an expert on the Romantic poets and his aspect of the new South Africa, the coarsening of learning, worries him. His fears are compounded when his daughter elects to have the child which is the product of the rape. All in all this is a disturbing book; deeply pessimistic about the prospects of the new South Africa and disillusioned by the over-simplifications that have replaced the previous barbarities. But as with all Coetzee's works, it is beautifully written and utterly distinctive. Review by JUSTIN CARTWRIGHT Editor's note: Justin Cartwright is the author of Leading the Cheers, which won the 1998 Whitbread Novel Award. (Kirkus UK)

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Book Review: Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee - Reviewed by (02 Mar 2013)

Disgrace is the eighth stand-alone novel by award-winning author, J.M.Coetzee. After a short-lived, impulsive affair with a student, Romance poetry teacher, David Lurie resigns his position at Cape Town Technical University and retreats to his daughter’s farm in the South African countryside. They live in relative harmony until an attack leaves them feeling violated and fearful. Lurie retrns to Cape Town to work on an opera he is composing about the poet Byron and his lover Teresa. As Coetzee narrates the recent events of Lurie’s life if the face of the changing political landscape of South Africa, he examines a range of topics: ageing, lesbianism, a male’s contribution in sex, violence and violation, rape, humiliation, the price to be paid to be permitted to remain peacefully in a land reclaimed by its owners, freedom of speech, freedom to remain silent, power relations and sexual relations. Lurie’s refusal to pay lip service to convention’s demands highlights the inflexible and occasionally ridiculous nature of the system. His daughter tells him, “….surely you know by now that the trials are not about principles, they are about how well you put yourself across.” While there is some excellent prose: “The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body.” and “The language he draws on with such aplomb is, if he only knew it, tired, friable, eaten from inside as if by termites. Only monosyllables can still be relied on, and not even all of them.”, the writing style is not particularly pleasing and the characters are unappealing and often irritating. I read this book after having read The Childhood of Jesus, which has been predicted to win Coetzee another Booker, to see if I liked it any better than that one. A Man Booker prize winner this one may be, but it confirms for me that I need read no more Coetzee.

Author Biography - J. M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee's work includes Waiting For the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood, Youth, Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice for Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace, which also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.

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