Disgrace by

For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.
–J. M. Coetzee - Disgrace - c.1999

David Lurie lives a very contained and well-run life. He is a professor in Cape Town, mostly he lectures in communication but he is also allowed to give one course on his chosen topic as well, Romantic poetry. He lives within his means, and emotionally he looks after himself. For sex he visits a prostitute once a week. He has two ex-wives and a daughter. He is relatively content until Melanie Isaacs catches his eye.

She is a student of his. 30 years his junior. Nevertheless he begins to flirt with her and eventually has sex with her. Show Spoiler ▼

. As a consequence of that inappropriate reaction Lurie is pretty much sacked from his job and heads off to visit his daughter in the country. There a whole heap of other issues raise their heads.

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Okay, on one level I hated and despised this book. Our protagonist, the only point-of-view character is a complete and utter bastard. He judges women constantly based on their appearance. At one stage he tells Melanie that because she is beautiful it is her duty to sleep with him, as he appreciates it. Beautiful women must share themselves with their admirers.

Every interaction he has with a woman he judges them on their appearance and how it pleases him, or does not. As thought that is the only role for women, to be appreciated by him!

He is such an asshole

But the book itself is such a great read. I think that Coetzee is well aware of Lurie’s failings, and that Lurie’s views are probably commonly held. Lucy, Lurie’s daughter, tells him at one stage that she is not his supporting character, coming in and out of his story when needed, she is her own person. But of course she is a supporting character in the book, but for Lurie to think of her like that needs to be pointed out.

I was continually angered and annoyed by this book. But that, I believe, was Coetzee’s aim. He certainly achieved it.

Other reviews : Linus’s Blanket ; Boston Bibliophile ; The Parenthesis and the footnote

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1 Response

  1. Mae says:

    I read this book awhile ago and I remember how much I was infuriated by Lurie but also pitied him. It was a great book though and wonderful writing – sparse and quiet.