Disgrace by J M Coetzee - review by Nicholas Mosley

Nicholas Mosley

Principled Philanderer



Secker & Warburg 220pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

This intelligent, interesting and very readable novel is ultimately depressing, and thus is representative of much good writing today.

David Lurie is a fifty-two-year-old, twice-divorced Professor of Communications in Cape Technical University in South Africa. His course used to be called Modern Languages, but this has been renamed in accordance with ‘rationalisation’. He has no enthusiasm for his job and few interests outside it. He keeps himself going by finding outlets for sex.

He has a weekly arrangement with a call-girl, but when this ends he pursues and has a brief affair with one of his twenty-year-old students. She is compliant; but her boyfriend and parents find out, and a complaint is lodged against him. He admits his guilt and loses his job. It is intimated that if he makes a public and emotional show of repentance he might soon be reinstated. He refuses to do this, explaining to his daughter that one should take responsibility for, but not be ashamed of, the pursuit of natural desires.

His daughter is the one human being to whom he feels close. In his disgrace he goes to stay with her on her isolated smallholding, where she lives alone. Before long her house is broken into and burgled by three wandering blacks: Lurie is assaulted and his daughter raped. There

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