Paperback - 2005
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Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee's searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice divorced, 52-year-old professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. He lives within his financial and emotional means. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy his sexual needs. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion a chain of events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

Lurie pursues his relationship with the young Melanie -- whom he describes as having hips "as slim as a twelve-year-old's" -- obsessively and narcissistically, ignoring, on one occasion, her wish not to have sex. When Melanie and her father lodge a complaint against him, Lurie is brought before an academic committee where he admits he is guilty of all the charges but refuses to express any repentance for his acts. In the furor of the scandal, jeered at by students, threatened by Melanie's boyfriend, ridiculed by his ex-wife, Lurie is forced to resign and flees Cape Town for his daughter Lucy's smallholding in the country. There he struggles to rekindle his relationship with Lucy and to understand the changing relations of blacks and whites in the new South Africa. But when three black strangers appear at their house asking to make a phone call, a harrowing afternoon of violence follows which leaves both of them badly shaken and further estranged from one another. After a brief return to Cape Town, where Lurie discovers his home has also been vandalized, he decides to stay on with his daughter, who is pregnant with the child of one of her attackers. Now thoroughly humiliated, Lurie devotes himself to volunteering at the animal clinic, where he helps put down diseased and unwanted dogs. It is here, Coetzee seems to suggest, that Lurie gains a redeeming sense of compassion absent from his life up to this point.

Written with the austere clarity that has made J. M. Coetzee the winner of two Booker Prizes, Disgrace explores the downfall of one man and dramatizes, with unforgettable, at times almost unbearable, vividness the plight of a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of centuries of racial oppression.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2005.
ISBN: 9780143036371
Branch Call Number: Fic
Characteristics: 220 p. ; 22 cm.


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Post-apartheid South Africa

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Feb 17, 2017

A multi layered story of change and redemption. The author is a master wordsmith with an evocative style that builds great characterization with a wonderful narrative pace within great prose. Definitely worth reading.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 04, 2016

A disturbing book, sophisticated, light, and potentially offensive. Though Coetzee borders on alienating his readers, he does a fabulous job of handling the matter with grace. His prose is tight and evocative. Every time a lag is foreseeable in the narrative, Coetzee turns up the tension. Given the book's size and delicate pace, it is amazing in the end how much ground is actually covered.

Dec 15, 2014

A wonderfully written book that completely wraps itself around the issues of disgrace; for the disgraced and the observers of the disgraced.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 06, 2014

Unprecedented second time winner of the Booker Prize—Coetzee describes the fall from grace of Cape Town Lothario, David Lurie, and his self-imposed exile on a remote farmstead owned by his daughter, Lucy. The improved nature of his relationship with Lucy is devastated by a brutal attack on the farm. Here is the dawning of the new South Africa with all its pain, guilt, fear and violence.

Mar 12, 2014

This is a fantastic book. I read it in one sitting. The only other book I've ever done that with is THE REMAINS OF THE DAY by Ishiguro. It's not just depressing. It's about . . . disgrace, in all its forms.

I should add, for people who shy away from books that deal with social problems, or that seem too political, or that seem to be tracts--this novel is a STORY, first. Always a story. Things happen that tap into "issues," but this isn't an "issues" book the way, say, Toni Anderson's are.

Oct 13, 2013

I think I learned something from this book, but I did not always understand the motivations of the characters.

George Nomikos Sep 17, 2013

A masterpiece by a Nobel Laureate on political, racial and personal disgraces

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

Set in post-apartheid Cape Town, on a remote farm in the Eastern Cape, Disgrace is a heartbreaking novel about a university professor who courts disaster by seducing one of his students. He is left jobless and friendless, except for his daughter, who works her smallholding with her neighbour, an African farmer now on the way to a modest prosperity. His attempts to relate to his daughter and to a society with new racial complexities are disrupted by an afternoon of violence that changes him and his daughter in ways he could never have foreseen.

brianreynolds Mar 29, 2012

Talk about a book being "pregnant"! Well, Disgrace is that and more. J.M. Coetzee manages to spin a tale that churns from interesting to absorbing to gut-wrenching at the same time he digs sub-strata after sub-strata of thought-provoking depth. There is the concept of disgrace itself, a sharp right-hand turn out of nowhere that can leave a person on the wrong side of a double yellow line facing oncoming traffic. A middle aged professor with a nineteenth century libido sees his world collapse only a short time before his daughter's experiment with country living is turned upside down with her as the subject of everyone else's design. There are the scapegoats, real ones, an abandoned mutt to be euthanized, a brace of sheep to be eaten, a father and daughter to be branded and shunned by a society in turmoil. There are questions of race and colonialism that war between head and heart. There are the sticky, uncomfortable differences that push people apart, that they call "culture" and tiptoe around or strive to ignore. This is a book that makes me wish I'd been living close to a book club back in 1999; it's a book I think we could be chewing on still, and well worth the effort. If for no other reason than the sad fact true tragedies are rare in literature, this short book is worth not one read but several. There are characters with enough hubris to believe they could hang on to simple truths. There are communities in need of healing. There are actions that are as inhumane and inhuman as they seem to be necessary for life to go forward. There is hope.

Nov 01, 2011

It's the first book I have read from Coetzee and what a cracker it is. Poised, understated and beautifully crafted. The main character David is far from likeable man but his reactions and musings are completely believable and utterly engrossing. At no point does it try to be neat in its response to the very real South African social dilemmas presented. The only point that I found difficult to swallow was David's later affair but that said, it didn't detract from the sense of menace that builds throughout the novel.

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TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

When all else fails, philosophize.


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