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.

Series that include this title

Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2005
ISBN: 9780143036371
Branch Call Number: 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

Jun 17, 2013
  • WVMLBookClubTitles rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Set in post-apartheid Cape Town, on a remote farm in the Eastern Cape, Disgrace is a heartbreaking novel about a university professor who courts disaster by seducing one of his students. He is left jobless and friendless, except for his daughter, who works her smallholding with her neighbour, an African farmer now on the way to a modest prosperity. His attempts to relate to his daughter 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.

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!

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



Powered by BiblioCommons.
app03 Version jokkmokk2 Last updated 2015/01/29 17:28