Coetzee’s Disgrace

Disgrace book cover
This has been done before, I’m sure, but…

This book is a disgrace.

The main character (David Lurie) is an asshole, as is every other man in the book who plays more than a filler role.

And just about every woman in the book is insecure and helpless when it comes to the men (especially lecherous David Lurie).

The basic story is that David Lurie is a professor at a South African college. He’s been married and divorced twice (no wonder), has a grown daughter, has a standing appointment with a prostitute once a week (who he kind-of stalks at one point), and ends up having affairs with two other women–one of whom is a student–during the course of this ~200-page book. The “affair” with the student is gross. He uses his power as her professor to get her to have sex with him. She never enjoys it or acts like it’s something she’s into–not even a little. It’s rape, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s this affair with the student that does him in. His reputation and career are ruined–he’s disgraced–and he goes to stay with his grown daughter for a while.

While he’s staying with his daughter, something awful happens to them (what happens to her is the worst). Lurie finds himself disgraced again, in a way, and realizes he can’t stay there anymore when he and his daughter can’t agree on a proper course of action post-trauma.

Disgrace isn’t a very long book, so it doesn’t go into much depth about any of the characters. I think the only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to see Lurie fail miserably, once and for all. I wanted to see him with absolutely nothing left to lose. I wanted to see the women stand up for themselves and stop being frickin’ martyrs. Unfortunately, neither of those things happens. 

I guess there were messages to be received–the different forms disgrace can come in, something about apartheid and its consequences–but the delivery was awful, so the messages didn’t sink in.

I gave Disgrace two stars on Goodreads. I expected more from a Nobel Prize winning author. Silly me.