#14. Disgrace

I had no idea that J.M. Coetzee was a poet until I picked up this book. These are not sentences beautiful because they contain or express heightened feelings – rather, they are sparse, sometimes dry sentences that are stunning because they are precise, exact. They are stunning also because, read together, they achieve a certain lyrical perfection.

Professor David Lurie is a fifty-two year old man who has married twice and been divorced twice. He has more desire than he has passion, so he sleeps with many women, mostly prostitutes, to quiet the longing. Before long, he loses his job because the authorities discover that he has been sleeping with one of his students. He retires to his daughter’s smallholding in the country to “gather himself.” During his visit, the two of them are the victims of a theft/ hate crime, which has tragic consequences. Prof. Lurie and his daughter, Lucy,  must deal with the aftermath.

This book is set in South Africa so, of course, Coetzee must deal with the issue of racism. His approach is admirable – it is delicate, while still remaining realistic – that is, there are no happy endings, but there are no gross misrepresentations either. At the end of the book, the reader is able to glimpse some hope for both Prof. Lurie and Lucy, although that hope is not of the glittery kind.

A lovely, thought-provoking read. I will be looking up more of J.M. Coetzee’s work.

4 stars

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