Ilya's Reviews > Disgrace

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
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's review
Dec 26, 2010

it was amazing

This novel is set in 1997 or 1998 in and around Cape Town. A twice-divorced oversexed 52-year-old professor of English has an affair with a 20-year-old student. After it is discovered, the student's ex-boyfriend and parents pressure her into submitting a sexual harassment complaint against him. He is judged by a committee and after he refuses to publicly humiliate himself, fired. He goes to a farm run by his daughter, hoping to write an opera about Lord Byron's sojourn in Italy. They are attacked by three black men; the daughter is gang-raped and he is doused with lighter fluid and set alight. He gets away with minor injuries but she is pregnant. Later it turns out that one of the attackers is a brother of one of the two wives of a 45-year-old black neighbor who got a land grant from some New South African affirmative-action-for-farmers program. If the daughter leaves for Holland, where her mother lives, the neighbor will probably take over her land - and the law in the New South Africa will be on his side. The neighbor offers to take her as his third wife; in this case he will take over her land, too. As the novel ends, she hasn't decided, what to do, and her father volunteers at an animal shelter run by a husband-and-wife team and sleeps with the wife.

You can learn as much about the New South Africa from the novel as from African National Congress's complaint about the novel's supposed racism to the South African Human Rights Commission.

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