Tuesday, August 25, 2009

205. Disgrace – J.M. Coetzee

History: This book was published in 1999.
Plot: A story about a professor in south Africa, who has an affair with a young student, and ends up getting fired after she tells her dad and he presses charges. I think she is black. Then he goes to stay with his daughter for a little while, who is a lesbian and living on a farm in the country. While he is there, 3 black men come and rape his daughter, Lucy, and lock him in the bathroom and set him on fire! He is okay, but Lucy is really traumatized by this, and she refuses to admit she was raped, and really doesn’t try to catch the men however she does admit she is afraid they will come back. The father is also volunteering at the animal clinic, and starts sleeping with the woman who runs it, a woman his own age, apparently not very attractive. He has to help her put dogs asleep, and the author goes into great detail about this. I think he is into animal rights. The father and daughter start to not get along, and he eventually goes back to the city, his old home, and attempts to mend with the family of the young girl he has the affair with, and it goes badly. Then, he calls back to Lucy, and finds out she is pregnant, and returns to the farm. She is planning on having the baby too. So he decides to stay there, he finds a house to rent, and buys a truck. The man next door, has some connection to the rapists, but nobody points a finger at him. He actually offers to marry Lucy, so that he can keep her safe, also so that he can have a piece of the farm.
Review: As in all of his mature novels, Coetzee here deals with the theme of exploitation. His favorite approach has been to explore the innocuous-seeming use of another person to fill one's gentler emotional needs. This is a story of both regional and universal significance. The central character is a confusing person, at once an intellectual snob who is contemptuous of others and also a person who commits outrageous mistakes. His story is also local, he is a white South African male in a world where such men no longer hold the power they once did. He is forced to rethink his entire world at an age when he believes he is too old to change and, in fact, should have a right not to. It is all about post apartheid division between black and white. It is very good.
Opening Line: “For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has to his mind solved the problem of sex rather well.”
Closing Line: “Yes, I am giving him up.”
Quotes: "Is he happy? By most measurements, yes, he believes he is. However, he has not forgotten the last chorus of Oedipus: Call no man happy until he is dead."
"The company of women made of him a lover of women and, to a certain extent, a womanizer."
Rating: very good

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