Every word I write about this book is a disgrace compared to the book itself.

J. M. Coetzee, the South African writer and Nobel prize winner, has written a book on a man named David Lurie. He teaches literature at a college and we follow in detail his downfall due to sexual escapades. Lurie has been divorced twice, he has one daughter Lucy, who lives on a farm.

I wrote ‘due to his sexual escapades’, but there is more to it. It is more due to his human escapades. His inability to see what he is doing and what the repercussions of his behaviour for other people, mainly women. It is inability, but on a deeper level I see a stubborness as well. A stubborness to see what he is doing, a stubborness to reflect on his own behaviour.

And all the time he is slipsliding away.

He seeks refuge at the farm of his daughter, but this does not make life easier for him. His misbehaviour with student Melanie at the College where he taught is ever so near to him. He cannot disentangle himself from his past. And maybe he does not even want to do so, at times convinced of his own moral structures.

David Lurie is a man whose desires are his downfall, his fall into disgrace. He wants to protect his daughter, but at the same time he uses uses and misuses women due to his greed and lust. 

Coetzee has written a devastating and sharp book, with an eye for detail that drew me more and more into this disgrace.  

(In 2008 a movie based on this book was published)

J. M. Coetzee – Disgrace – 1999

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

6 thoughts on “review DISGRACE

  1. Have just follwed your ‘like’ on my review to this page! As you know I loved this book and in particular I loved the ambiguity and the fact that in the end I think it is up to the reader to decide what it’s about and what it’s message is. Perhaps we will all take something away from it based on our own experiences. I didn’t like Lurie, I thought his treatment of the student was “disgraceful” – he just didn’t seem to be able to see what he did was wrong. But my reading of the ending is that in the end he did, in the end he knew his time was past.


    1. Thanks for your comment. To me Lurie wanted in a way to protect his daughter, but she was about the only female he wanted to protect. No matter what I and we think about the final thoughts ans actions of Lurie, Coetzee manages to make me think.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my favourite novels. The main character is difficult but unbearably human and slowly he is challenged and nudged toward growth by the circumstances around him. That is the power of this book.


      1. Admittedly I read the book many years ago, but as a man in early middle age myself at the time I do recall a sense of potential awakening in the character. Whether he would learn from it, possibly not at all. Certainly this is not a tale for those who want unambiguous moral messages, but then much of the best literature leaves it to the reader to resolve the moral ambiguity for him or herself. In much of the world today, this is a more honest, realistic and powerful portrait. Some of the best South African writers are masters at this in my mind.


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