Saturday, May 8, 2010

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Coetzee’s Booker – winning “Disgrace” is a fluently written novel, which a hasty reader can easily gobble up in less than one day. The content on the contrary will linger for days and keep one pondering over the tragedy that occurs to father and daughter Lurie on their isolated South African farm.
The horrible fait-divers which doubles –up as a political and moral allegory of the “situation” in South Africa emphasizes in the extreme the immense problems the young nation has to cope with in its post-apartheid decade.

As David Lurie akwardly tries to help his daughter Lucie to recuperate the shreds of her life after her traumatic experience, he says :

“.. it is time for you to face up your choices. Either you stay on in a house full of ugly memories and go on brooding on what had happened to you, or you put the whole episode behind you and start a new chapter elsewhere.Those, as I see it, are the alternatives”.

Coetzee, who had been at "the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement” made his choice, three years after the publication of “Disgrace” by effectively starting a new chapter in Adelaide, Australia. The reason he said at the time, was the South African lax attitude to crime. He inverted later his statement by saying that he did actually not flee his native country but fell in love with Australia.

I will not go in a detailed review, as there are excellent one's to be found on the net, but I will halt a moment at the situation and the position of the different characters at the end of the book. They could give an idea of Coetzee’s vision on what might happen in the near future. Obviously the white “ Patrias” David Lurie, representing the South Africa of white dominance has fallen in disgrace. He has abused his moral power in an affair with a student, taken responsibility for it, but failed to make a public apology and for that reason he has been sacked from his job as a university professor. He goes to stay with his daughter who has chosen for a “barren” lesbian relationship but now lives alone on a farm in the countryside. Lurie is not capable to protect his daughter when her farm is invaded and she is raped by three black punks. Petrus, a black neighbour farmer, symbol of a certain part of the native population who does try to build a decent future, knows the perpatrators of the crime – they are even family – but does not intervene, judge or even help. He does however claim to David Lurie, that he will protect his white neighbour, but together with the father, the reader doubts if his capable of doing it or even if he is sincere.

The child, Lucie is bearing from the rape, and which she decided to keep and love, will be a halfblood conceived in violence. Its future is doubtfull and it will probably neither be accepted by the white nor by the black community. But, most disturbing off all, is the presence of the vicious adolescent, who was one of the three thugs who attacked the Luries, and who under the protection of Petrus still roams around the house.

If Lucie stands for the situation of the young generation of whites in present South – Africa, their future looks really bleak.

Obviously Coetzee heeded his own warnings.

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