From the author of Waiting for the Barbarians and the Booker-Prize-winning Life & Times of Michael K, a dazzling new novel--his first in five years
Disgrace--set in post-apartheid Cape Town and on a remote farm in the Eastern Cape--is deft, lean, quiet, and brutal. A heartbreaking novel about a man and his daughter, Disgrace is a portrait of the new South Africa that is ultimately about grace and love.
At fifty-two Professor David Lurie is divorced, filled with desire but lacking in passion. An affair with one of his students leaves him jobless and friendless. Except for his daughter, Lucy, who works her smallholding with her neighbor, Petrus, an African farmer now on the way to a modest prosperity. David's attempts to relate to Lucy, and to a society with new racial complexities, are disrupted by an afternoon of violence that changes him and his daughter in ways he could never have foreseen. In this wry, visceral, yet strangely tender novel, Coetzee once again tells "truths [that] cut to the bone." (The New York Times Book Review)
About the Author:
J. M. Coetzee's books include Boyhood, Dusklands, In the Heart of the Country, Waiting for the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Foe, and The Master of Petersburg (all available from Penguin). Coetzee's many literary awards include the CNA Prize (South Africa's premier literary award), the Booker Prize, the Prix Etranger Femina, the Jerusalem Prize, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize.
There is more in Disgrace than I can manage to describe here. But let me end by suggesting Coetzee's most impressive achievement, one that grows from the very bones of the novel's grammar.
This novel stands as one of the few I know in which the writer's use of the present tense is in itself enough to shape the structure and form of the book as a whole. Even though it presents an almost unrelieved series of grim moments, "Disgrace" isn't claustrophobic or depressing, as some of Coetzee's earlier work has been. Its grammar allows for the sublime exhilaration of accident and surprise, and so the fate of its characters - and perhaps indeed of their country - seems not determined but improvised. Improvised in the way that our own lives are; improvised in a way that recalls the subject of Coetzee's 1994 novel, The Master of Petersburg, the novelist whom we know as Dostoyevsky.
Coetzee won an earlier Booker prize for Life & Times of Michael K. Last month's award made him the only writer ever to win it twice. "Disgrace" surely deserves such recognition. But that may, in time, come to seem among the least of this extraordinary novel's distinctions. -- (New York Times Book Review