The one word that encapsulates it all.
The disgrace of a man to his profession, the disgrace of being old, the disgrace of youth, the disgrace of a nation in throes of stagnation and conflict, the disgrace of animals and the purpose of the life they are supposed to have, the disgrace of humanity in its ability to feel, the disgrace to acknowledge and apologise .
The disgrace that starts from the beginning and carries on till the end.
No character is spared, no event is exempted. Every character is disgraceful and does nothing to ease the repulsion they bring.
Unerring, unashamed and unflinching in stirring thoughts that are shocking, scandalous and shameful, Disgrace not only is unapologetic in what it portrays but also in what and how Coetzee exhibits it to portray.
The post-apartheid South Africa besieged in its conflicts and non-conformity is a nation is disgrace. Though it is ready to accept the wrongs of its past it does so only without any retribution or an apology. A nation calling in for sacrifices and seeking redemption through co-existence and acceptance of truth.
J.M.Coetzee successfully and artistically exposes to its readers a symmetry that runs parallel with the disgrace of a man David Lurie who is subjected to a fall from his profession and that of South Africa that is a nation in ruins and in a state of disgrace subjected to the fall from its standards and hopes.
This is not a book for the faint-hearted or recreants. There are no easy exits and no happy phases to soothe or bring peace.
Lurie, as a 52 year old divorcee is a womaniser and a lecherous professor of English who has no respect for the material he teaches and is therefore looked through by his students. He teaches only to earn a livelihood and is brought to disgrace when he ready to take chances with his career for an illicit relationship with one of his students.
“The company of women made of him a lover of women and, to an extent, a womanizer. With his height, his good bones, his olive skin, his flowing hair, he could always count on a degree of magnetism. If he looked at a woman in a certain way, with a certain intent, she would return his look…. Then one day it all ended. Without warning his powers fled…. Overnight he became a ghost….He existed in an anxious flurry of promiscuity.”
On being charged he consents to being guilty but not to repent. Repentance belongs to another world, to another universe of discourse. He confesses but doesn’t apologise.
What follows is a series of events that take disgrace to another level.
Be ready to be appalled, to be sickened with the underlying lust, to feel disgust and repulsion, to be gripped with this absolute page-turner that wouldn’t let you put it down despite it’s immorally distasteful blatant truths.
There are no corners to hide into. No masks to disguise.
Just the bitter taste of disgrace.