Written with the austere clarity that has made Coetzee the winner of two Booker Prizes and the Nobel Prize, Disgrace explores the downfall of one man and dramatizes the plight of a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of centuries of racial oppression.
Set in post-apartheid South Africa, Nobel Prize Winner, J. M. Coetzees
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 Melaniewhom he describes as having hips "as slim as a twelve-year-olds"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 Melanies boyfriend, ridiculed by his ex-wife, Lurie is forced to resign and flees Cape Town for his daughter Lucys 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.
FOR A MAN of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the
problem of sex rather well. On Thursday afternoons he drives to Green Point.
Punctually at two p.m. he presses the buzzer at the entrance to Windsor
Mansions, speaks his name, and enters. Waiting for him at the door of No. 113 is
Soraya. He goes straight through to the bedroom, which is pleasant-smelling and
softly lit, and undresses. Soraya emerges from the bathroom, drops her robe,
slides into bed beside him. 'Have you missed me?' she asks. 'I miss you all the
time,' he replies. He strokes her honey-brown body, unmarked by the sun; he
stretches her out, kisses her breasts; they make love.
Soraya is tall and slim, with long black hair and dark, liquid eyes. Technically he is old enough to be her father; but then, technically, one can be a father at twelve. He has been on her books for over a year; he finds her entirely satisfactory. In the desert of the week ...
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