Monday, June 8, 2009

J.M. Coetzee: Disgrace

A booker prize winner written in the third person - they do exist!!

This little book is about a 52 year old divorced university lecturer (David) whose philandering ways and skewered principles lose him his job, so he visits his daughter on her smallholding, where something nasty happens.

I had mixed feelings about this book.I did not like David at all. He stalks one women when she stops sleeping with him for money, and preys sexually on a vulnerable student who does not seem to want his attentions. He probably rapes this student, several times, but the narrative has been written from his viewpoint, and his viewpoint is that she is a partner in their relationship, even though she hides herself from him, avoiding classes and shrinks from him when he is near her. David is also far too self obsessed - he rolls his thoughts around, studying them from all directions. I wanted to slap him, and was quite happy to read about all the difficult things that happen to him. After all, they don't seem to move him much, so why should they move me?

I had a lot more sympathy for his daughter, though I thought her mad to stay on her land after the attack and wait for the same thing to happen again. I have a female friend who lives in Port Elizabeth on a dairy farm, and so my feelings about that were quite strong.

So, I was reading about someone I did not like, and unpleasant events. Why then did I end the book with grudging admiration for the writer?

Perhaps because the book had the ring of honesty about it. The story does not come to any tidy conclusion, events are related by our unreliable narrator, there is the ordinary human mix of the scary, the mundane, and the totally unexpected, and we are left to make of them what we will. Has David been redeemed by the events that have happened? I don't know. If David was real, and the events real, I would say "Time will tell". As it is I was left considering the many possibilities. And I enjoyed that.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book about five or six years ago. Thank you for your review and reminding me about the book.