Saturday, 9 April 2011

Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee

A novel published in 1999 in post-apartheid South Africa.

This isn't a novel you can claim to "like" or even "enjoy". I found interest in the protagonist, who has a relationship with a student. I couldn't really understand why a 20 year old student and a 54 year old professor would cause such an uprising and lead to his resignation. Surely she's old enough?

This guy says he's guilty,  holds his ground and says that's all he'll do, and goes out to a farm where his daughter lives. They get attacked, and the novel then centres on their relationship deteriorating into awkward silences. The novel was interesting enough to keep me reading it an a fast pace, connoting to its style; simple, yet effective.

The cover refers to the phrase of a country "going to the dogs", and the professor character ends up working with dogs whilst at the farm. This novel won the Booker prize, and I'm not surprised. It was well timed, its an insight into South Africa just after apartheid, and I cannot fault it.

If you were to ask me if I would recommend the novel, and what I thought of it, its subject matters limits my answer to  an almost ignorant appreciation perception of the country and its history. Whilst this book hints at political commentary it keeps on its own track, challenging consistent themes of personal shame, the treatment of women (such as his daughter), a changing country, and animal rights.

Some of these themes require that you're up to scratch with your history, but one symbolism that I found completely inaccessible was the professor's Byron anecdotes, and trying to relate them back to his current affairs. This was an understandable use of the character at first, but dwindled into the very bleakness the novel itself was encumbered within; only meaningful to a select, esoteric group which unfortunately the author tried to immerse us into. Appropriate for the Booker prize, no doubt.

1 comment:

Maxine said...

I've just read this book, I thought it was wonderfully written. It was bleak, and confronting but the range of emotions conveyed in just a couple of hundred pages was brilliant.