Coetzee, J.M. Disgrace

ISBN 13: 9780099284826

Disgrace

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9780099284826: Disgrace
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A divorced, middle-aged English professor finds himself increasingly unable to resist affairs with his female students. When discovered by the college authorities, he is expected to apologise and repent in an effort to save his job, but he refuses to become a scapegoat in what he see as as a show trial designed to reinforce a stringent political correctness. He preempts the authorities and leaves his job, and the city, to spend time with his grown-up lesbian daughter on her remote farm. Things between them are strained - there is much from the past they need to reconcile - and the situation becomes critical when they are the victims of a brutal and horrifying attack. In spectacularly powerful and lucid prose, Coetzee uses all his formidable skills to engage with a post-apartheid culture in unexpected and revealing ways. This examination into the sexual and politcal lawlines of modern South Africa as it tries desperately to start a fresh page in its history is chilling, uncompromising and unforgettable.

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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.

The ecstatic critical reception with which Disgrace has been received has insisted that its excellence lies in its ability to encompass the universality of the human condition. Nothing could be farther from the truth, or do the novel--and its author--a greater disservice. The real brilliance of this stylish book lies in its ability to capture and render accountable--without preaching--the specific universality of the condition of whiteness and white consciousness. Disgrace is foremost a confrontation with history that few writers would have the resources to sustain. Coetzee's vision is unforgiving--but not bleak. Against the self-piteous complaints of all declining cultures and communities who bemoan the loss of privileges that were never theirs to take, Coetzee's vision of an unredeemed white consciousness holds out--to those who reach towards an understanding of their position in history by starting again, with nothing--the possibility of "a moderate bliss." --Rachel Holmes

Review:

"What is remarkable about Coetzee’s vision as a novelist is that it remains intensely human, rooted in common experience and replete with failure, doubt and frustration" (Guardian)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780140296402: Disgrace

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ISBN 10: 0140296409 ISBN 13: 9780140296402
Publisher: Penguin, 2000
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9780099289524: Disgrace

Vintage, 1999
Softcover

9780670887316: Disgrace

Viking, 2000
Hardcover

9780143115281: Disgrace

Pengui..., 2008
Softcover

9780143036371: Disgrace (Penguin Essential Editions)

Pengui..., 2005
Softcover

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