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Publisher's Summary

Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 1999

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, Nobel Prize winner 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 Melanie - whom he describes as having hips "as slim as a 12-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 small holding in the country.

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.

©2008 J.M. Coetzee (P)2008 Penguin

Critic Reviews

Disgrace is not a hard or obscure book - it is, among other things, compulsively readable - but what it may well be is an authentically spiritual document, a lament for the soul of a disgraced century.” (The New Yorker)

“A subtly brilliant commentary on the nature and balance of power in his homeland.... Disgrace is a mini-opera without music by a writer at the top of his form.” (Time)

“Mr. Coetzee, in prose lean yet simmering with feeling, has indeed achieved a lasting work: a novel as haunting and powerful as Albert Camus’s The Stranger.” (The Wall Street Journal)

What listeners say about Disgrace

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book - aptly named

"Disgrace" - That pretty much says it all, and such is the fate of the main character, professor David Lurie.
I read this book years ago, before it was available on Audible. Brought to life by the reader Michael Cumpsty this audio version is just as satisfying, if not more than the written version.
It is virtually impossible to empathize with David Lurie, who's narcissistic and selfish behavior make him his own worst enemy. Yet J.M. Coetzee offers no excuses for Lurie. He is simply a very flawed man, aging against his will, resigned to act according to life's forces that direct him to his own demise.
On it's face, the story is simple. However there are many complexities that weave throughout: Lurie's relationship with his daughter Lucy, his avocational project on Byron, his checkered past with females, his interaction with Lucy's neighbors, his reluctant volunteering at an animal clinic.
The story and writing are as stark as the arid South African landscape where it is situated. This concise book is brutally straightforward and masterfully crafted.
Highly recommended.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing Story

It's hard to believe this book is fiction. It would seem the author would have to have lived this life in order to write such a convincing portrait.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Intense

I now want to read everything this author has written. Superb, but challenging

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Coetzee at his masterful best

It's not a pretty story, with some rather confronting themes, but Coetzee has a way of making the words dance off the page, proving once again that he is one of today's greatest living writers, and Cumpsty's interpretation does it perfect justice. If you listen to this right through, you should be left only wanting to read more of Coetzee's work.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Understanding South Africa

There are two great books that I know of about life in South Africa: This one and Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (also on Audible.com and a terrific listen).

This is a powerful book, at some points I wanted to quit it because it was quite an emotional experience. But I am happy, very happy I kept with it.

I would say this book had great emotional impact as I have mentioned, plus it gave me an education on the people of the groups of South Africa and their character. Not always the pretty sight. I wonder if South Africa will ever "work".

The author is a Nobel prize winner for Literature in 2003. I learned a lot about him otherwise in the Wikipedia article on him, and highly recommend it. I believe part of the excellence of this book is the portrayal of life as it is in such a way that it could not be communicated in any other medium. Quite an achievement.

1 person found this helpful

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A haunting story, well performed

Michael Cumpsty’s performance lends the edge to this haunting novel. He adds layers to the story contributing to a greater appreciation of the story (this is one of those novels to which reading and listening is valuable). With a well constructed plot, well developed characters, tight writing, the story propels forward compellingly. One draws its meaning as in a poem, profoundly. In the end, one feels viscerally the daunting significance in the silence, the emptiness

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blech

If you've read bonfire of the vanities you can skip this one. same delusional narcissist

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Nabokov Raised by Wolves

This is a masterpiece that shreds you up inside. If Donna Tartt, Ann Patchett, and Nabokov had threesome that produced a love child which they abandoned in South Africa and Cormac McCartney raised her in a garage full of wolves, classic works, and opera playing 24/7 on surround sound— that would this book.

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Sad

I read this book 9 years ago and decided to listen to it . Very well written and very sad. Seems sort of relevant to what is going on now .

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  • GJ
  • 05-25-20

Hmm, it’s hard to rate this. Bleak but essential.

Some themes: Desire, Loss, Justice, Transitions, Death

I would recommend this book to those who are okay with very bleak/sad endings. This book might also be for you if you are okay with flawed and unlikable characters.

Something I can say that is easy about the book is that it is easy to read...it’s a page-turner, as they say.

The voice actor does a good job throughout the audiobook. Two thumbs up there.