Isabelle's Reviews > Disgrace

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
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Jan 28, 14

Read in March, 2012

I've read Disgrace twice now, the first time at my father's recommendation and the second for uni, and this book, in all its stoicism and staidness, hasn't changed much for me after over two years. The first read was a quick one, just getting to grips with the story, and the second was slower, more deliberate, parsing the novel for meaning in anticipation of fun essay-writing times. Coetzee tackles a controversial agglomeration of inherently highly-charged themes—illicit sexual relations, rape, and physical violence—and he knows it. In light of what's already been raised on these topics in the discourses of popular culture and law and history, the most potent of suggestions can thus be found in the silences and spaces between the writing: spaces in which a woman's silence, deliberately enacted, can turn the historical annals of patriarchy inside out, or spaces which encase the most poignant of emotions by preserving them untouched, unmarred by the defects of speech. Coetzee sets forth ideas but never preaches or forces a conclusion upon them, content to let us (and the characters) contrive our own redemptions.

Yet this book wasn't always my cup of tea, in that it's unfailingly dry and parched of tone and taste. Characters wander like vagabonds, victims to the relentlessly fluctuating social landscape of South Africa, but they remain seemingly condemned to subjugation to the wiles of their own minds. Incidents and accidents occur one after the other, but are slowed down by Lurie's frequent dips into his mental recesses, a tactic Coetzee employs with relish. This is a psychological novel, first and foremost, and I suspect I'd have liked it more if Lurie had been a more sympathetic character, or if we'd been given the chance to explore other characters further, perhaps even at the expense of Coetzee's obsession with his own protagonist. Coetzee's extreme fondness for Lurie unbalances what could've been a more interestingly told, interestingly paced story.

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