My Book Review- Disgrace by J.M Coetzee



J.M Coetzee is an award-winning writer who received Booker price twice, first in 1983 for his novel, 'Life and Times of Michael K' and in 1999 for 'Disgrace'. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2003. 


The novel Disgrace derives its inspiration from the social and political situation in the post-apartheid South Africa. The country gained independence from apartheid colonialism in 1994. 

David Lurie, the protagonist in Disgrace, teaches Romantic poetry at the Technical University of Cape Town, South Africa. 'A man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has to his mind, solved the problems of sex rather well', meets Soraya a prostitute every Thursday.  After Soraya stopped seeing him abruptly, he seduced a young girl Melanie Issac, his student. 

His run into disgrace started when he was dismissed from the University for refusing to admit before the disciplinary committee he was wrong in his action.  ''Suffice to say that Eros entered. After that, I was not the same'. That was all his explanation

He goes to visit his lesbian daughter Lucy. She was in her middle twenties living alone in a small holding, making a living out of growing vegetables and flowers and selling them in a nearby farm-stall in Salem in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.  

Then on a Wednesday in the morning, three Black men tricked their way into their home, raped Lucy locking Lurie up in the lavatory, and later they burned him after dousing in methylated spirits.  They butchered Lucy's dogs using her rifle, robbed household goods dumped them into Lurie's car and sped away.  In the car, he had kept his work on Byran, a project on which he was planning to work. 

Lucy reported the theft to the police for the insurance claim but, to Lurie's surprise, not the rape.  Lucy became pregnant with the rape child, but she wouldn't abort it. He suggested her to leave the place to escape the horror of what had happened and which both of them were sure would happen again. But she wouldn't buy any of those. 

And she agrees to a proposal made by Petrus her Black 'gardener' and 'the dog-man' to marry her not to 'sleep with' him but to have protection.  Hearing this, Lurie was 'taken aback, astonished and dumbfounded'. And she gives her farm except for her home to Petrus as her dowry.

Disgrace is a socio-political novel with strong historical and racial undercurrents. In 1999 the year it was published, South Africa as a young democracy was basking in its childhood.  Freedom marked, on the one hand, the demise of its White racist apartheid rule and on the other the beginning of a new, liberal political undertaking for a better non-racial, non-sexist, rainbow nation.

In its childhood, the rainbow nation was not progressing as peacefully and as progressively to match the hopes and ambitions of its people- there were farm murdering, rapes and violence.

The plot and narratives of the novel found its latent energy from such a background and no wonder it immediately became a target of political criticism in the line of for and against the rainbow nation.   

The African National Congress, the national ruling party, submitted the novel to an investigation of the Human Rights Commission about racism in the media.

But according to literary critique, Disgrace does not straightforwardly present a story. It's a form of allegory open to interpretation, or it's a suggestive novel. Lucy's decision to 'marry' Petrus is her disgrace and can be interpreted as a possible fate every South African white girl would face. 
I read the novel twice, the second time in 2014, and I would say the South African White girls are not meeting with such a destiny as Disgrace suggests. The nation faces issues, of corruption, nepotism, violence, crime and rapes, but the designers of its liberal policies have a lot to be proud of the way the nation is progressing. As a novel, it's not written in a hard obscure style, but a compulsively readable one.  

Ref:
http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2009/nov/28/disgrace-coetzee-film-malkovich-review
http://www.powells.com/review/2001_05_10.html.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging challenge.  

This is my third post in the series. #writetribeproblogger

Monday, October 9 # prompt- My Book Review- Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee.