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 farm. For a time, his daughter's influence and the natural rhythms of the farm promise to harmonize 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 faults in their relationship. Chilling, uncompromising and unforgettable, Disgrace is a masterpiece.
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David Lurie is hardly the hero of his own life, or anyone else's. At 52, the protagonist of Disgrace is at the end of his professional and romantic game, and seems to be deliberately courting disaster. Long a professor of modern languages at Cape Town University College, he has recently been relegated to adjunct professor of communications at the same institution, now pointedly renamed Cape Technical University:
Although he devotes hours of each day to his new discipline, he finds its first premise, as enunciated in the Communications 101 handbook, preposterous: "Human society has created language in order that we may communicate our thoughts, feelings and intentions to each other." His own opinion, which he does not air, is that the origins of speech lie in song, and the origins of song in the need to fill out with sound the overlarge and rather empty human soul.Twice married and twice divorced, his magnetic looks on the wane, David rather cruelly seduces one of his students, and his conduct unbecoming is soon uncovered. In his eighth novel, J.M. Coetzee might have been content to write a searching academic satire. But in Disgrace he is intent on much more, and his art is as uncompromising as his main character, though infinitely more complex. Refusing to play the public-repentance game, David gets himself fired--a final gesture of contempt. Now, he thinks, he will write something on Byron's last years. Not empty, unread criticism, "prose measured by the yard," but a libretto. To do so, he heads for the Eastern Cape and his daughter's farm. In her mid-20s, Lucy has turned her back on city sophistications: with five hectares, she makes her living by growing flowers and produce and boarding dogs. "Nothing," David thinks, "could be more simple." But nothing, in fact, is more complicated--or, in the new South Africa, more dangerous. Far from being the refuge he has sought, little is safe in Salem. Just as David has settled into his temporary role as farmworker and unenthusiastic animal-shelter volunteer, he and Lucy are attacked by three black men. Unable to protect his daughter, David's disgrace is complete. Hers, however, is far worse.
There is much more to be explored in Coetzee's painful novel, and few consolations. It would be easy to pick up on his title and view Disgrace as a complicated working-out of personal and political shame and responsibility. But the author is concerned with his country's history, brutalities, and betrayals. Coetzee is also intent on what measure of soul and rights we allow animals. After the attack, David takes his role at the shelter more seriously, at last achieving an unlikely home and some measure of love. In Coetzee's recent Princeton lectures, The Lives of Animals, an aging novelist tells her audience that the question that occupies all lab and zoo creatures is, "Where is home, and how do I get there?" David, though still all-powerful compared to those he helps dispose of, is equally trapped, equally lost.
Disgrace is almost willfully plain. Yet it possesses its own lean, heartbreaking lyricism, most of all in its descriptions of unwanted animals. At the start of the novel, David tells his student that poetry either speaks instantly to the reader--"a flash of revelation and a flash of response"--or not at all. Coetzee's book speaks differently, its layers and sadnesses endlessly unfolding. --Kerry FriedAbout the Author:
J.M. Coetzee is a professor of general literature at the University of Cape Town. He is the author of seven novels, most recently The Master of Petersburg, and of the memoir Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life. His many awards include the Booker Prize in 1983 for The Life & Times of Michael K, the Prix Femina and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. J.M. Coetzee is the first author ever to be awarded two Booker Prizes.
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Book Description Secker & Warburg / Random House, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. New. Normally dispatched same day by Royal Mail to the UK. Bookseller Inventory # N-BOX4-COE01-1n
Book Description Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. UNUSED, LIKE NEW, NOT EX-LIBRARY, 220 pages. Emerging from the dissident calibrations of literary voices joined together in the culture of protest against the apartheid regime, the distinctive writing of novelist, critic and academic J M Coetzee has become identified as one of the most finely tuned among contemporary Southern African writers. From the local recognition accorded his earliest novel Dusklands to the international acclaim with which his rewriting of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe story, Foe was received, Coetzee has dedicated himself to transforming South African writing from a blunt weapon of struggle to a delicate and incisive instrument of reflective liberation. Disgrace takes as its complex central character 52-year-old English professor David Lurie whose preoccupation with Romantic poetry--and romancing his students--threatens to turn him into a "a moral dinosaur". Called to account by the University for a passionate but brief affair with a student who is ambivalent about his embraces, David refuses to apologise, drawing on poetry before what he regards as political correctness in his claim that his "case rests on the rights of desire." Seeking refuge with his quietly progressive daughter Lucie on her isolated small holding, David finds that the violent dilemmas of the new South Africa are inescapable when the tentative emotional truce between errant father and daughter is ripped apart by a traumatic event that forces Lucie to an appalling disgrace. Pitching the moral code of political correctness against the values of Romantic poetry in its evocation of personal relationships, this novel is skillful--almost cunning--in its exploration of David's refusal to be accountable and his daughter's determination to make her entire life a process of accountability. Their personal dilemmas cast increasingly foreshortened shadows against the rising concerns of the emancipated community, and become a subtle metaphor for the historical unaccountability of one culture to another. Bookseller Inventory # 12293
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Book Description Secker & Warburg / Random House, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0436204894
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Book Description Secker & Warburg / Random House, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine. 1st Edition. 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. First, number string 2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1. Black cloth, gilt title to spine, red/maroon endpapers. Dust jacket unclipped English pounds 14.99. Not remaindered. Winner of The Booker Prize 1999. Bookseller Inventory # 007840
Book Description Secker & Warburg / Random Hous, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110436204894
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Book Description Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. A very fine first printing in a second state unclipped fine dust wrapper with Booker Winner strapline presesnt, having minimal creasing to the odd extremity. This unread gift condition copy is SIGNED by this Nobel and Booker winning author to the title page.Super attributes. Clays prinitng. BOXED DESPATCH. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # ABE-14484588884