“Disgrace” is a 1999 novel written by famous South-African born writer J. M. Coetzee. He is the winner of 2003 Nobel Prize in literature for this book. Prior to this success, the book itself won the Booker prize in 1999. A 2006 poll by the famous newspaper “The Observer” named “Disgrace” as the best novel of the last 25 years (from 1980 to 2005) written in English outside the America. “Indeed, the fact that academic presses outside of South Africa published three books in the last three years with a sole focus on Coetzee is worth noting if only because o other single-author studies have appeared on any other South African writer. Further evidence of Coetzee’s international popularity, in addition to the obvious prestige of his Nobel Prize, can be seen in the 2005 election of Disgrace as the best book written in English in the last 25 years in the British newspaper The Observer”(Lambert and Ochsner, 2009, p. 104).
The novel tells the story of a man, David Lurie, who is dissatisfied with his job as a communication professor, losses everything: his reputation, job, peace of mind, good looks, dreams of artistic success and finally even his ability to protect his cherished daughter. According to ‘The Guardian”, "[a]ny novel set in post-apartheid South Africa is fated to be read as a political portrait, but the fascination of Disgrace is the way it both encourages and contests such a reading by holding extreme alternatives in tension, salvation, ruin" (Absolute Astronomy). The novel is the inspiration of South Africa’s existing social and political conflict, and offers a bleak look at the country.
“Disgrace” can be considered as a post-secular novel that visualizes new terms of ethics in post-apartheid South Africa by both engaging and opposing religious languages and practices. Interestingly, these new terms of ethics are quite intimated through the whole confessional practice by the central character, David Lurie, and the dialogical description of the novel. Exploring further themes and ethics that he brought in a 1985 paper on confession, the author obscuring willing, ethical agency and self-initiated transformation, in and through the character’s effort to susceptibility undone in trivial and significant ways through the imperative address of others, both animal and human.
“Disgrace” is wonderfully written, sensitively direct novel that maps, in shadows and scars, the problematical cultural geography of contemporary Cape Town. In the whole story, the low moral standards and behavior of western privilege overlays the picture of rural Africa. The ineffectual academic hopes to shape and tame the simple thoughts of the unformed young are drawn dramatically. Most importantly, the book’s title is packed with meaning. The word “Disgrace” is the state of grace which can only be achieved through compassion for other living beings. The fault that is placed in the tragedy presents the inability of Lurie’s to sympathize with his student. He can see but does not take it in the clear meaning that his student does not desired him as he desire her. It is a classic kind and he does nothing to protect from such consequences. It seems he has promised himself a mid-life complex and won’t be denied one. On this regard, he sees himself in wryly elevated position.
Undoubtedly, any novel which is set in post-apartheid South-Africa is destined to read as a political portrait (Killam and Kerfoot, 2007, p. 43).
Killam, G. D. and Kerfoot, L. Alicia. (2007). Student encyclopedia of African literature. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.
“In spectacularly powerful and lucid prose, Coetzee uses all his formidable skills to engage with a post-apartheid culture in unexpected and revealing ways” (Coetzee, .M. (2008).
But the fascination of this novel is somewhat perversely presented to the viewer, as they will feel it both encourages and contests such reading by holding excessive choices in tension. This novel brings to mind of the readers about the self-employing requirement for spiritual growth. By recording the consequence of a man’s abuses of and fall from power, the author makes a story of both universal and regional significance.
On the one side, Lurie is a certain kind who contemptuous of others, makes use of his position to get what he wants and to justifying the taking. But his story is also local. He is South African white male in the world where such person no longer has the power they once had. This might be the reason for which he is forced to reconsider his entire life at a time when he believes he is too aged to change. This realization is the mirror of many people around the world which leads them into more complex and unsolved situation. The message of the story is as good as it should have been by giving the control placed on it by the talent.
For Coetzee, “Disgrace” is certainly a reply to what he emphasizes as his feelings of helplessness before the reality of suffering in the world. His message through this novel seems to answer the controversy of his implication in apartheid. From this perspective, this novel would seem to be expression of a melancholic or even masochistic repetition compulsion. Additionally, at the same ground, they are also to be said as a mode of protesting the forced action. This is the way of minimal, highly qualified forms of act which is a mode of waiting for the finishing of apartheid. Not a single note is wrong provided by the author throughout this novel. Each and every presentation is perfectly calibrated and essential. Every passage quite clearly questions the subjective separation between the major and minor and long-accepted inequality supported by nothing so much as time. This is writer method of saying that the novel is well-off and significant enough to motivate furious, competing explanations, and unwavering enough to formulate some of them rather painful.
He won the Nobel Prize in 2003 as well as Booker in 1999 for this novel and it is easy to understand why. After all the tale is miserable and the writer proposes no thrilled rapid fix for the post-apartheid South-Africa where whites who arm themselves and create security hurdles are expected to obtain pellet in the back ultimately, and lonely women are brutalized. And Lurie’s rise from such disgrace is by no means finished. Followed by that, he has downed far enough which he can no longer recover the life as he did before. This story provides a small degree of glimpse of self-redemption, a sense that Lurie is not entirely broken. In addition to this observation, the novel also presents the tiny bit of dignity he retains implies a little hope that if one such as Lurie from the upper echelon of race and education in the then South Africa can discover meaning of life again, then maybe the disgrace of apartheid can be evolved into something better as well. “I am tempted to say that the scale of success (both popular and academic) of Coetzee’s most realists novel, Disgrace, suggests that academia’s recent interest in the postmodern novel is a sham functioning to maintain intellectual power for a field with rapidly dwindling social eminence” (Lambert and Ochsner, 2009, p. 106).