Disgrace J. M. Coetzee


There's way, way too much to write about coming from this weekend, so I'll get to it gradually. In the meantime, here's a review of my "beach-reading."

This book won the Booker Award, a rather prestigious book award, similar, I suppose to the National Book Award here in the States. Coetzee is another of the great line of South African writers in the tradition of Alan Paton and Nadine Gordimer, who look carefully at their society then and now and tell us what the results are for the people who live its history.

Disgrace is a tangled knot of a story, richly satisfying in the intricacy both of plot and of characterization. I found myself not always sympathetic to the thoughts and motives of the main characters, but always sympathetic to them. It was an interesting paradox. I would read something and say, "Stop being and ass," as though I were talking to a friend in need of a bracing reality check.

The story centers around a man who has an affair with a student and forces the issue in such a way as he is dismissed from his job. That's the simplistic view of events. As you come to understand the character, you'll find that it is much more tangled than that. He goes to live with his daughter on a farm in another part of the Cape and experiences there a day of violence that transforms both lives.

What is most particularly interesting is how articulate the main character is; how simultaenously out of touch and in-touch. He seems to know himself so well, but he discovers himself through the art of compostion and producing a "chamber opera" about the life of Byron and one of his lvoers.

The book is about passion--love and hate. Passion is the underlying motif and the principle element of everything that occurs. Passion or lack of it defines each person in the book--what they are passionate about and how it expresses itself is one of the strengths--no part of the brilliance--of this very readable, very engaging, very tender and frightening book. I was stunned by the beauty of it and I look forward to reading others by the same writer.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 17, 2004 7:15 AM.

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