Jonathan Derbyshire

Crimes of the Past

Disgrace

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120 mins Australia/South Africa 2008 order from our bookshop

J M Coetzee’s 1999 Booker Prize-winning novel takes its title from not one, but two instances of disgrace. In the first, David Lurie, a 52-year-old ‘adjunct professor of communications’ at a university in Cape Town (before the ‘great rationalization’ of higher education that followed the end of apartheid, he’d been a professor of modern languages), is sacked and his pension taken away after it emerges that he has slept with a female student. In the second, Lurie’s daughter Lucy is raped by three black men who break into her ramshackle clapboard house in the Eastern Cape, to which Lurie himself has retreated following his sacking. The rapists douse Lurie in methylated spirits and he suffers disfiguring burns.

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