Monday, July 15, 2013

DisgraceDisgrace by J.M. Coetzee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't like Waiting for the Barbarians because it was so earnestly allegorical (a story that has self-conscious aims of being important, statement-making literature) and Disgrace teeters on the edge but manages to stay on the safe side. David Lurie is a fascinating character, a middle-aged man who, on principle (a romantic notion of the eminence of desire) is unrepentant about his relationship with one of his students and is prepared to suffer the consequences for the sake of his ideals. And yet he is a man for whom love exists only in the poetic abstract, the component of selflessness, all but absent from his life. Lurie is exquisite in his loneliness and disconnectedness. Everything begins to change when, after being dismissed from his university teaching position, he seeks refuge with his daughter, a lesbian farmer living in the dangerous townships. The realities of life lived close to the ground and hard choices begin to impinge on Lurie's privileged (urban, elitist) worldview. The main strength of this novel is in Coetzee's multi-faceted evocation of the psychology of exploitation and its political echos in a post-apartheid South Africa struggling with self-transformation. The weakness is when it begins to feel heavyhanded and too earnest. The sections of Lurie writing an opera based on the memoirs of Lord Byron in Italy dragged down a novel that otherwise moved at a solid clip. In spite of his avowed dislike of traditional religion, Lurie eventually finds that salvation, for one who has fallen from grace, requires a form of self-sacrifice.

View all my reviews

No comments: