Wednesday, October 11, 2017

DISGRACE by J.M. Coetzee

David Lurie, a university professor in post-apartheid South Africa, will go to almost any length to satisfy his sexual needs, including the seduction of one of his students.  When she charges him with sexual harassment, he is forced out of his job, partly because he shows no real remorse.  He then moves in with his daughter, a lesbian who lives on a small farm.  A tragic and violent event drives home the vulnerability of women in this society and sheds a different light on David’s role as a predator.  This novel made me uncomfortable, particularly with regard to the role reversal between the blacks and the whites.  The blacks have the power, and the whites now find themselves in a world where they are not the bosses.  David’s daughter is more accepting of the new order of things, particularly the lack of law and order, while her father’s frustration festers.  Their opposing attitudes cause a rift between them, and I have to say that, despite his despicable behavior with regard to women, his point of view seems entirely reasonable with regard to his daughter’s safety.  His daughter becomes depressed but ultimately seems willing to absorb some personal losses in order to maintain her quiet life.  Is she courageous or just plain stubborn?  She basically has three choices:  stand up for her rights, accept the situation as is, or leave.  Standing up for her rights could cost her her life, and I think she feels that the whites deserve the treatment they are getting from the blacks anyway.  Turnabout is fair play.

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