Book Review: Disgrace


After seeing a good review of it on M-----l's blog, I asked for and received Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee from my local library. Like I needed another book to read, but luckily this was a rather thin tome, so it was one I figured I could handle.

And I did finish it, which something I've had a hard time doing lately. Disgrace tells the story of a South African professor who gets involved with a student of his, gets found out and then kicked out. He goes to stay with his daughter, who has gone back to the earth and runs a farm by herself off "in the country".  More bad things happen, which interferes with his writing of a Lord Byron opera.

I have to admit to being a little nonplussed by it all. Disgrace is a Booker Prize winner, and Coetzee is a literary darling. But in many ways, it reminded me of reading The Welsh Girl - a book populated with characters who seemed to never leap off the page, remaining just literary figures who never resonated with me as "real" people. Motivations seemed to be missing or, even worse, random. And the main character never came off as someone to feel sorry for, who seemed to be reaching for something, but actually rather pathetic in the end. Not a bad book, but not one that makes me want to run out and read another Coetzee.

J. M. Coetzee


You mentioned that the characters in Disgrace didn't seem "real" to you.  In some ways, I thought they were more realistic than most of the characters I read.  The main character and his daughter were annoying, pathetic, stubborn, and rarely acted in their own best interests...just like most of the people I know.

Any thoughts on the last page?

They seemed like caricatures in many ways, like the author was toying with both them and the reader. While the characters showed traits that I see in other people, they were liked a dozen all wrapped in one.The ending is a perfect example. Not sure why it ended that way, really, although I guess it is in keeping with his depressive state.

[this is good] i haven't finished this book yet.  (and i began it over a year ago which just doesn't happen with ANY other books i read).  i agree with hieronymus.  i have read the life and times of michael k before for a class and disliked it very much. good "plot" (as in this book) but i was entirely apathetic to the existence of the main character. i found myself feeling the same way towards the characters in this book: i just couldn't care less whether they lived, died, breathed, ate, or anything else.  i doubt i'll ever read a coetzee again. i can't understand how these books get these awards.  there is much better post-colonial fiction out there with characters who are made to matter.   

[this is good] Have you read Coetzee's Youth? That is a phenomenal book and the reason why I started with Disgrace. It hardly feels like the two were written by the same person!  

No, Disgrace was my first, and thus far only, Coetzee exposure. I suppose I could try another one...

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on November 12, 2007 7:28 PM.

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