Synopses & Reviews
'Now a major motion picture starring John Malkovich.
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 apologize and repent in an effort to save his job, but he refuses to become a scapegoat in what he sees 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 political law lines of modern South Africa as it tries desperately to start a fresh page in its history is chilling, uncompromising and unforgettable.'
After years teaching Romantic poetry at the Technical University of Cape Town, David Lurie, middle-aged and twice divorced, has an impulsive affair with a student. The affair sours; he is denounced and summoned before a committee of inquiry. Willing to admit his guilt, but refusing to yield to pressure to repent publicly, he resigns and retreats to his daughter Lucy's isolated farm. For a time, his daughter's influence and the natural rhythms of the farm promise to harmonize his discordant life. But the balance of power in the country is shifting. He and Lucy become victims of a savage and disturbing attack which brings into relief all the faults in their relationship. Chilling, uncompromising and unforgettable, Disgrace is a masterpiece.
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 apologize to save his job, but instead he refuses and resigns, retiring to live with his daughter on her remote farm.
About the Author
J.M. Coetzee is a professor of general literature at the University of Cape Town. He is the author of seven novels, most recently The Master of Petersburg, and of the memoir Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life. His many awards include the Booker Prize in 1983 for The Life & Times of Michael K, the Prix Femina and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. J.M. Coetzee is the first author ever to be awarded two Booker Prizes.
Reading Group Guide
1. Consider the nihilistic vision supported by Lurie and every other character in Disgrace
, perhaps with the exception of Lucy. Is there any hope of reconciliation between different ethnicities, sexes or even members of the same family?
2. After the brutal attack, the novels themes become clear. Consider the landscape of this novel and the fact that it is still apparent in Mandela's South Africa.
3. Lurie, though fascinating, is not a sympathetic character. After the attack, his abiding concern is for his daughter. Is his love for Lucy his saving grace? And to what extent do you sympathise with her wish not to press charges against her attackers?
4. 'There must be some niche in the system for women.' Lurie has made use of women and his own daughter is used in turn. Women are the objects of punitive violence. Discuss the unswerving pessimism in Disgrace.
5. The dog imagery throughout this novel is chilling and indelible. Examine this figurative language. What does Lurie's ambivalence towards the young, injured dog at the end of the book suggest to you?
6. The Coetzeen hero lives in a world of lawlessness, where social structures are in chaos and morality and decency no longer have the same currency. In Disgrace, what moral uncertainties does Coetzee make you confront?