Coetzee, J. M., 1940-

Book - 2005
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Penguin Putnam
Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee’s searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice divorced, 52-year-old professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. He lives within his financial and emotional means. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy his sexual needs. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion a chain of events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

Lurie pursues his relationship with the young Melaniewhom he describes as having hips “as slim as a twelve-year-old’s”obsessively and narcissistically, ignoring, on one occasion, her wish not to have sex. When Melanie and her father lodge a complaint against him, Lurie is brought before an academic committee where he admits he is guilty of all the charges but refuses to express any repentance for his acts. In the furor of the scandal, jeered at by students, threatened by Melanie’s boyfriend, ridiculed by his ex-wife, Lurie is forced to resign and flees Cape Town for his daughter Lucy’s smallholding in the country. There he struggles to rekindle his relationship with Lucy and to understand the changing relations of blacks and whites in the new South Africa. But when three black strangers appear at their house asking to make a phone call, a harrowing afternoon of violence follows which leaves both of them badly shaken and further estranged from one another. After a brief return to Cape Town, where Lurie discovers his home has also been vandalized, he decides to stay on with his daughter, who is pregnant with the child of one of her attackers. Now thoroughly humiliated, Lurie devotes himself to volunteering at the animal clinic, where he helps put down diseased and unwanted dogs. It is here, Coetzee seems to suggest, that Lurie gains a redeeming sense of compassion absent from his life up to this point.

Written with the austere clarity that has made J. M. Coetzee the winner of two Booker Prizes, Disgrace explores the downfall of one man and dramatizes, with unforgettable, at times almost unbearable, vividness the plight of a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of centuries of racial oppression.

Baker & Taylor
In a novel set in post-apartheid South Africa, a fifty-two-year-old college professor who has lost his job for sleeping with a student tries to relate to his daughter, Lucy, who works with an ambitious African farmer.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2005
ISBN: 0143036378
Branch Call Number: FIC C
PR9369.3.C58 D5 2005
Characteristics: 220 p. ; 22 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Dec 15, 2014
  • MaryMaryJ rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A wonderfully written book that completely wraps itself around the issues of disgrace; for the disgraced and the observers of the disgraced.

Mar 12, 2014
  • Smartjanitor rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is a fantastic book. I read it in one sitting. The only other book I've ever done that with is THE REMAINS OF THE DAY by Ishiguro. It's not just depressing. It's about . . . disgrace, in all its forms.

I should add, for people who shy away from books that deal with social problems, or that seem too political, or that seem to be tracts--this novel is a STORY, first. Always a story. Things happen that tap into "issues," but this isn't an "issues" book the way, say, Toni Anderson's are.

Oct 13, 2013
  • bigoz123 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I think I learned something from this book, but I did not always understand the motivations of the characters.

Sep 17, 2013
  • George Nomikos rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A masterpiece by a Nobel Laureate on political, racial and personal disgraces

Mar 29, 2012
  • brianreynolds rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Talk about a book being "pregnant"! Well, Disgrace is that and more. J.M. Coetzee manages to spin a tale that churns from interesting to absorbing to gut-wrenching at the same time he digs sub-strata after sub-strata of thought-provoking depth. There is the concept of disgrace itself, a sharp right-hand turn out of nowhere that can leave a person on the wrong side of a double yellow line facing oncoming traffic. A middle aged professor with a nineteenth century libido sees his world collapse only a short time before his daughter's experiment with country living is turned upside down with her as the subject of everyone else's design. There are the scapegoats, real ones, an abandoned mutt to be euthanized, a brace of sheep to be eaten, a father and daughter to be branded and shunned by a society in turmoil. There are questions of race and colonialism that war between head and heart. There are the sticky, uncomfortable differences that push people apart, that they call "culture" and tiptoe around or strive to ignore. This is a book that makes me wish I'd been living close to a book club back in 1999; it's a book I think we could be chewing on still, and well worth the effort. If for no other reason than the sad fact true tragedies are rare in literature, this short book is worth not one read but several. There are characters with enough hubris to believe they could hang on to simple truths. There are communities in need of healing. There are actions that are as inhumane and inhuman as they seem to be necessary for life to go forward. There is hope.

Nov 01, 2011
  • elizabennett rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

It's the first book I have read from Coetzee and what a cracker it is. Poised, understated and beautifully crafted. The main character David is far from likeable man but his reactions and musings are completely believable and utterly engrossing. At no point does it try to be neat in its response to the very real South African social dilemmas presented. The only point that I found difficult to swallow was David's later affair but that said, it didn't detract from the sense of menace that builds throughout the novel.

Oct 11, 2010
  • rblacklock rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

First book I've read by the JM Coetzee. I was expecting big things based on all the awards. This novel is average at best. There are far better writers out there. It's not a bad book, but the story line isn't believable and the writing just isn't that good. Shameful that books like "Three Day Road" by Boyden don't make the list for the Booker and this actually wins it...go figure!

Sep 09, 2010
  • Library_Liz rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Reading this harkens back to my days of studying foreign languages in University. We were always forced to read the bleakest existential novels. I must admit however, it's much easier in my mother tongue. Reviews implied that there would be a fairly strong political undercurrent and while it is there I think you really have to sort of dig for it as opposed to it being front and center. What I found most interesting was watching the many character's "disgraces" all of a different nature, intensity and then watching how each one handled their own disgrace through denial, repression, or blatantly flaunting their behaviour as driven by something necessarily beyond their control. This novel is a bit of work but getting inside the mind of Lurie and feeling his relentless hopelessness and decline is fascinating in its own depressing way.

Nov 09, 2009
  • samdog123 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I've never read any books by J.M. Coetzee, but I'm really glad I read this one. Winner of the 1999 Booker prize and winner of the Nobel prize for literature, 2003, it's just a fabulous read. A very different sort of narration, and its so well written that you become totally engrossed in the characters and their lives. Even the main character, David Lurie, although he's a real cad, having been kicked out of his university teaching job for fraternizing with a student, is someone you dislike, but enjoy reading about.


Add Age Suitability

Jun 17, 2012
  • tracylim2002 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

tracylim2002 thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add a Notice

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Find it at NYPL


Buy It Now

Support your library, keep it forever!

View Purchase Options Learn more about this program

Your Cart

Hello! We noticed you have the following items in your cart right now:

If you'd still like to purchase the items you have in your cart, you can do that now.

You'll be able to purchase your eBook after you have checked out your current cart.

To continue with your eBook purchase immediately, you can clear your cart by clicking below.

All items will be removed from your cart.

I'd like to keep browsing! I'll decide later.

Explore Further

Browse the Shelf

Subject Headings