Monday, February 12, 2007

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Disgrace is about David Lurie, a professor at Cape Technical University who is forced to resign his post because he has an affair with one of his students. For the first half of the book, it seems like the "disgrace" of the title is describing chiefly Lurie's disgrace as he deals with being jobless and being sent to live with his daughter, a lesbian rustic who lives on the East Cape and owns a dog kennel, but the book is split in half by a moment of unspeakable violence when a trio of Africans break into their house and rape Lucy and assault David. In a way, it reminds me of the film In the Bedroom, in which what you believe the movie to be about is replaced by something much darker and more difficult in one fell swoop.

But that's really what tragic moments like that are like, I suppose: one moment your life is one way and then before you can blink it's something completely different.

This book doesn't seem like it's really meant for me; there's too much about aging. It reads like a book written for those who have to deal with the same things as Lurie: the loss of virility, the acceptance of senescence, the abandonment of previously held ambitions. Still, Coetzee's style is so plain that it's easy to connect with his characters, even ones as unlikeable as Lurie.

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