Oct 14, In J.M. Coetzee's new novel, Disgrace, which is set in a violent . His face has been destroyed, signalling the end of his sexual identity. This non-relationship is reinforced by those characters in Coetzee's fiction, such as. As with many of Coetzee's novels, Disgrace reveals the troubled relationship Unlike these other novels, Disgrace takes place after the end of Apartheid;. Feb 21, "In the dystopian novel Disgrace, David Lurie does not achieve including apartheid and race relations in his native South Africa, . Though Lurie realizes he should “end it” with Melanie at this point, “he Plot Summary.
Melanie, "dawdling," perhaps curious and flattered by the professor's attentions, consents to have a drink, then dinner with David Lurie at his home Too much old-fashioned poetic wooing, however, finally puts Melanie off 16and she escapes the evening with a brief embrace from David While it seems not be rape, Melanie "is passive throughout," afterwards "averts her face" as she gathers her things, dresses quickly, declares she must go Monday, Melanie is not in class and David Lurie sends her carnations.
Like a Dog
On rainy Tuesday, he finds her at school and gives her a ride home. That evening, David Lurie attends a play rehearsal in which Melanie has a role. The next afternoon, David visits Melanie at her apartment. She verbally says no, but does not physically resist his sexual advances.
Melanie is not in Prof. Lurie's class the next day for the Midterm, and then stays away for a week. Lurie agrees, but is now wary. That evening David Lurie finds Melanie has gone and his car is vandalized. Thereafter Melanie keeps her distance, and scandalous talk begins at school The next Monday in the Romantic poetry class, Prof. Good or bad, he just does it. Read a few lines further: What is a mad heart?
Getting no answer, Lurie continues himself: On the contrary, we are asked to understand and sympathize. But there is a limit to sympathy. For though he lives among us, he is not one of us.
He is exactly what he calls himself: Finally, Byron will suggest, it will not be possible to love him, not in the deeper, more human sense of the word. David Lurie separates Melanie from her boyfriend, meets with her in his office after class, tells her he must speak to her "as a teacher" with "obligations," and urges her to take the Midterm like other students You have made me bear your secret. I am no longer just a student. How can you speak to me like this? Driving home that evening, David shudders with "lust" when he sees Melanie, straddling her boyfriend on his motorcycle Lurie receives notice that she is withdrawing from his class An hour later, David Lurie gets a long distance call from Melanie's father, Mr.
Isaacs of George, S. On Wednesday and Friday that week, attendance in his class is poor, and David Lurie realizes, "The story must be out" Isaacs turns up to accuse Lurie in person: Isaacs warns that Lurie has not "heard the last of it" Soon after, David Lurie receives the Vice-Rector's official notification that a Code of Conduct complaint sexual harassment, see p.
In an initial meeting with university authorities, his colleagues, Lurie pleads guilty, readily admits he was having an affair with the girl, refuses to defend himself, and storms out The next term, few students show up for Prof. Lurie's first Baudelaire class meeting; though the complaint is supposed to be confidential, the gossip mill has been grinding His lawyer advises David Lurie to take the counseling option offered by the university, and on campus it is Rape Awareness Week David dines with his ex-wife Rosalind: Melanie Isaacs is not present, having given her testimony to the committee the day before Outside, after the hearing, the press accosts him; David Lurie refuses to express repentance, snapping instead, "I was enriched by the experience" The next day, Prof.
But David refuses the sign the statement though it would have saved his job Byron fled overseas, and Lurie seeks refuge with his daughter on her farm" Sarvan. Lucy had moved in here years ago as a member of a commune, stayed on with her friend Helen when everyone else left, and because Lucy fell "in love with the place" and "wanted to farm it properly," her father David Lurie helped her buy it After his arrival, David discovers that Helen, too, has recently moved on to Johannesburg, and that Lucy is now living alone, feeling protected by her dogs and a gun David is wakened early on Saturday, market day, to help Petrus and Lucy cut and load flowers and vegetables, which they take into Grahamstown to display and sell in their Donkin Square stall Afterwards, David and Lucy discuss the Shaws and their animal welfare work, in which Lurie has little interest Lucy feels that her father is disappointed with her life and friends, but expresses her philosophy candidly: This is the only life there is.
Which we share with animals. To share some of our human privilege with the beasts. David asks Lucy not to be cross with him: Barney would have us note that, at this early point in the story, David Lurie expresses fairly typical human thinking about animals, in contrast to that of "animal lovers" like his daughter Lucy and her friend Bev Shaw.
Disgrace (), by J. M. Coetzee - Reading Guide
David Lurie has also been established as "unsympathetic, culpable, and downright distasteful individual": As part of a complex argument about the role of animals in Coetzee's fiction, Barney draws attention to this early expression of Lurie's attitude toward animals, for it marks a point from which to measure the change that will occur in Lurie before the novel ends, through the growth of Lurie's ability to empathize with animals--particularly their suffering--and need to accord them some dignity in death.
Barney points out that "animal life long served European colonialism. Cora's reading of Barney reading Coetzee, is that such imaginative empathy with animals is "capable of generating palpable personal, social, or even political change"--life-altering change even in such a one as David Lurie. He has never been afraid to follow a thought down its winding track, and he is not afraid now. Why should they not be open with each other, why should they draw lines, in times when no one else does?
David and Lucy talk When David asks what he could be doing, Lucy suggests that he "help with the dogs"; "give [Petrus] a hand" with his lands, gained from a Land Affairs Grant; and help Bev Shaw at the animal clinic Bemused, David agrees to all Lucy's suggestions, but wonders whether Petrus will pay him a wage, and jokes about volunteer work at Bev's animal clinic: It sounds like someone trying to make reparation for past misdeeds.
But only as long as I don't have to become a better person. I am not prepared to be reformed. I want to go on being myself" Mad, bad, and dangerous to know. I promise, no one will ask you to change" David goes into the yard, greets the dogs, stretches out in the cage beside Katy, the abandoned "old bulldog bitch," falls asleep, and there Lucy later finds him Lucy on Katy and dogs' plight: No one wants her, and she knows it.
The irony is, she must have offspring all over the district who would be happy to share their homes with her. But it's not in their power to invite her. They are part of the furniture, part of the alarm system. They do us the honour of treating us like gods, and we respond by treating them like things" David offers that the "Church Fathers" long ago decided that animals had no souls 78 ; and protests when Lucy counters that she's not sure she has a soul It cuts her up terribly" Lucy says that David underestimates Bev, "a more interesting person than you think" A line of people and animals wait their turn outside "Animal Welfare League W.
David helps hold the dog down while Bev lances the tooth, advising David to "Think comforting thoughts, think strong thoughts. They can smell what you're thinking" Afterwards, Bev compliments David: I sense that you like animals" David thinks these ideas are "nonsense!
The next patient is an old buck goat, nightly savaged by dogs: Oosthuizen] to come or let Bev "give him a quiet end" The old woman drags her goat away, and David finds himself trying to comfort Bev. David "has a first inkling of the task this ugly little woman has set for herself. This bleak building is a place not of healing. David spends the afternoon helping as best he can in Bev's surgery, then he and Bev survey the yard, feed a bird and "mob of scrawny mongre[l]" dogs awaiting their fate, and talk David offers to continue to come and help her so long as she knows that he is in "disgrace" Lucy's Farm, that evening: David retires early but can not sleep, listens to Lucy's noises in the house and wonders about his daughter's life--her absent partner Helen, their relationship and sex life--and his "fate" as an aging father to turn "more and more.
He reads Byron's letters of Rising early, David--longing thoughts of Melanie and Soraya still visit him--and Lucy breakfast, take two Dobermanns for a walk, and talk of his "case" David cannot quite say out loud that he felt himself "a servant of Eros" when he pursued Melanie; it is too vain, but not entirely a lie to maintain, "It was a god who acted through me" Instead he likens his case to the parallel case of a male "golden retriever" who became "unmanageable" whenever he smelled "a bitch in the vicinity," for which behavior his owners unfairly beat the dog "for following its instincts" and resulted in the dog hating "his own nature" Of three options, "to deny its nature," to be "fixed" and spend its days becoming portly "padding about the living-room," or to be shot, David would choose the third They are discussing the aptness of describing Lurie as a scapegoat wandering in "the wilderness," when one of their dogs bristles at "two men and a boy" striding quickly, then disappearing, down the path Returning home, David and Lucy hear "the caged dogs in an uproar" and find the three males seen earlier on the path, there "waiting for them" Lucy cages the Dobermanns though David apparently has Katy, the bulldog, on leash outside the cages?
When Lucy, and later David, call for Petrus, he is nowhere to be found. One of the men asks to use the telephone in Lucy's house to get help for a sister having a baby When Lucy lets one, "a tall, handsome man," into the house, the second man pushes past David to follow them in, and David "knows at once" that "Something is wrong" David looses the bulldog, and the boy the third intruderstill outside, uses a stick to keep the dog at bay.
Hearing the front door being locked, David breaks in through the kitchen door, but is hit in the head and blacks out He regains consciousness locked in the "lavatory" of Lucy's house, calls out to Lucy, desperately aware that his "child is in the hands of strangers," that soon "it will be too late," but cannot break out The shorter man suddenly opens the bathroom door and threatens David, who gives up the house keys and pleads, "Take everything.
Just leave my daughter alone" Peering through the bars of the window from his perch on the toilet seat, David watches the men carry "Lucy's rifle and a bulging garbage bag" from the house, hears them start David's car, then pause beneath David's window "discussing his fate" David watches the tall man aim Lucy's rifle into the cages and shoot the dogs, one by one Footfalls in the passage, the bathroom door bursts open, David is immersed in "methylated spirits" and set ablaze He flails about, puts out the flames with toilet bowl water, cries out for Lucy pver and over, and hears the intruders start up and leave in his car After a time, Lucy, clothed now a bathrobe, unlocks the bathroom door and lets him out; at the door of the ravaged kitchen, he hears her murmur, "My darlings, my darlings!
Finally turning her attention to David, Lucy frowns: Back inside, he sees that the whole house is a mess, many things have been taken, and his reflection in a mirror reveals his head a mass of brown ash, angry pink and oozing flesh Lucy has locked herself in the bathroom and does not respond to his anxious inquiries Count yourself lucky to have escaped with your life. Count Lucy lucky too. Above all Lucy" He holds desperately to the "comforts of theory. Not human evil," just "A risk to own anything.
Not enough to go around. Otherwise one would go mad" Cleaned up and clothed, Lucy emerges from the bathroom, suggests that he apply baby oil to his head, refuses to call the police, requests that he confine his reports to what happened to him not her; and announces she will leave to seek help from the neighboring Ettingers Choking with tears, he cries out, "My child, my child!
At the Grahamstown hospital, Lucy, "all strength, all purposefulness," fills out forms and admits her father for treatment of his burns Lucky that his eye has not been permanently damaged because the intruders did not use "petrol" on him, David emerges hours later to find kindly Bill Shaw waiting to fetch him, and David muses with surprise at Bill's friendship David is driven to the Shaw's home, where Lucy has taken refuge and sleeps under sedation The Shaws also minister to burned and weakened David Awakening himself and Lucy in the middle of the night by a dream of trying to save Lucy, David tries to get back to sleep, can't, and spends the rest of the night "watching over his little girl, guarding her from harm, warding off the bad spirits" Early the next morning, Bev shakes her head at David's anxious inquiries about Lucy--as if to say "Not your business.
He wonders whether Lucy and Helen consider "Raping a lesbian worse than raping a virgin: She has, but he irritates her by assuming her doctor must be male When she announces her intention to return "to the farm and clean up," David protests that "it's not a good idea.
Relationships in disgrace
Because it's not safe. I'm not going back for the sake of an idea. I'm just going back" Bev changes David's dressings and David wonders whether the goat at the clinic felt "the same peacefulness" while she worked on him David asks Bev about Lucy's doctor, worried because Lucy's rape exposes her to the risk of pregnancy, venereal infection and HIV; but Bev tells him he must ask Lucy himself Past eleven, David is at loose ends while he waits for his daughter to emerge, and paces the Shaws' garden.
For the first time he has a taste of what it will be like to be an old man, tired to the bone, without hopes, without desires, indifferent to the future. Slumped on a plastic chair amid the stench of chicken feathers and rotting apples, he feels his interest in the world draining away from him drop by drop. It may take weeks, it may take months before he is bled dry, but he is bleeding.
When that is finished, he will be like a fly-casing in a spiderweb, brittle to the touch, lighter than rice-chaff, ready to float away" He realizes he cannot expect help from his daughter, who must "work her own way back from the darkness to the light," but he realizes he is indifferent to the farm--"let it all go to the dogs, I do not care"-- and balks at the idea of accepting responsibility for the farm in the interim Like a leaf on a stream, like a puffball on a breeze, he has begun to float toward his end.
The blood of life is leaving his body and despair is taking its place, despair that is like a gas, odorless, tasteless, without nourishment. You breathe it in, your limbs relax, you cease to care, even at the moment when the steel touches your throat" Two young policemen arrive, Lucy emerges from Bev's bedroom, Bev drives Lucy and David out to the farm, with the policemen behind The dogs' corpses lie in the cages, though Katy, the bulldog, has escaped and is glimpsed skulking about the stables David hangs back, noticing the kitchen has been cleaned up and Lucy's bed stripped bare, but remains silent, as Lucy takes the policemen through the house and gives her version of the crime The policemen depart, telephone repairmen arrive, then neighbor Ettinger, who instructs David that it could have been "worse" if they had taken Lucy away with them Alone with Lucy at last, David offers to bury the dogs, asks why she did not tell "the whole story," but does not press her for a full response David imagines that the three invaders will watch the newspapers, listen to gossip, realize they are 'being sought for robbery and assault and nothing else," and feel victorious when they decide the woman they raped is "too ashamed to tell" Burying six full-grown dogs, David imagines the mindset of the assailants: A satisfying afternoon's work, heady, like all revenge" When David returns to the house, he finds Lucy installing herself a camp bed in the musty old pantry, offers her the room in which he has been staying, and moves himself into Lucy's bedroom--the scene of the crime where she refuses now to sleep Gently, David tries to question Lucy about why she did not reported her rape.
Rather, Lucy says, "what happened to me is a purely private matter" because it happened in "South Africa" today, and "It is my business, mine alone" Count Lucy lucky too. A risk to own anything: Not enough to go around, not enough cars, shoes, cigarettes. Too many people, too few things. What there is must go into circulation, so that everyone can have a chance to be happy for a day.
That is the theory; hold to the theory and to the comforts of theory. Not human evil, just a vast circulatory system, to whose workings pity and terror are irrelevant.
Disgrace - Wikipedia
That is how one must see life in this country: Otherwise one could go mad. Cars, shoes; women too. There must be some niche in the system for women and what happens to them. One of the rapists — the young boy, whose name is Pollux — is related to Petrus and has recently become a member of his household.
Petrus himself was suspiciously absent on the afternoon of the rape and refuses to comment on it. Perhaps that is how they look at it; perhaps that is how I should look at it too. They see me as owing something. They see themselves as debt collectors, tax collectors. Why should I be allowed to live here without paying? Perhaps that is what they tell themselves.
His relationship with Lucy is breaking down. He realises that he will never finish his opera about Byron, which appears more and more irrelevant in the South African context. His face has been destroyed, signalling the end of his sexual identity. No longer attractive, and equipped by the rape with a sickening new appreciation of the ways in which women can be used by men, he submits to a self-abasement not unlike that of his daughter by having a relationship with Bev Shaw, whom he does not desire.
He also submits completely to the work at the animal clinic, where he puts down unwanted and homeless dogs, becoming emotionally attached to one crippled dog in particular.
Of these, the most powerful are ones that Coetzee has used before to describe the colonial situation: Living alone with her father, resenting his tyranny over his dependants yet also complicit in sustaining it, Magda longs for an end to solipsism. She is aloof from her neighbours on the farm, a black labourer called Hendrik and his wife, Klein Anna. Hendrik is what Petrus would once have been, a bywoner without property rights.
When her father overturns this hierarchy by taking Klein Anna as his mistress, Magda kills him. Concluding as it does with a total failure of reciprocity between parent and child, male and female, the coloniser and the colonised, In the Heart of the Country is a sombre work. The implication is that he is an unnatural father, a predator rather than a protector.
The analogy with a certain kind of exploitative colonial paternalism is so lightly and deftly set up that it is barely noticeable.
It nonetheless recalls similar moments in the earlier novels: The fundamental flaw in the colonial enterprise, the novels suggest, consists in this absence of a real relationship between the paternalistic power and its subjects. Like David Lurie, Mrs Curren is a former teacher, who sees the world through the prism of the classics, her own specialised field of knowledge.
She offers well-meant advice when the teenage son of her maid, Florence, is hunted by the police for his involvement in a township resistance group; but her moral lessons, drawn from Thucydides, fall on deaf ears. Of the many examples of the gulf between white and black in the novels, two in particular stand out. In Life and Times of Michael K, the hero, a coloured gardener, escapes a Cape Town torn by civil war and journeys into the countryside, growing his own food and enjoying a brief idyll of freedom before being interned in a labour camp.
In captivity he refuses to eat or speak. The idea is given fuller treatment in his next book, Foe, where the silent other who resists interpretation is Friday.
Friday cannot speak because his tongue has been cut out, possibly by Cruso; he can only understand a few words of English, and he can neither write nor read. From inside him comes a slow stream, without breath, without interruption. It flows up through his body and out upon me. Soft and cold, dark and unending, it beats against my eyelids, against the skin of my face.
In The Master of Petersburg the potential dangers of authorship are spelt out very clearly: Similarly, Susan Barton approaches Daniel Foe believing that he will set down her account of life on the island as accurately as possible, only to find that he rewrites it as a myth of the male pioneer.
Foe is a supreme realist, a writer whose novelistic method is geared to the concealment of narrative artifice, who invents where necessary rather than leaving a loose end. Yet his narrative silences both Susan and Friday: Foe is the foe of truth.
At the clinic for unwanted animals, Lurie tends the most abject creatures and in the course of his work gains an imaginative insight into the suffering not only of animals, but of other people.
His sacrifice of the wounded dog which he has tried in vain to protect accompanies his realisation that he has no rights over Lucy, and cannot tell her how best to survive — an insight that puts their strained relationship on a more equal footing.
It is from this perspective — the recognition that our moral health depends on our ability to acknowledge some kind of selfhood in others — that the Tanner Lectures which Coetzee recently gave at Princeton on the subject of animal rights can be best approached.
The Lives of Animals is a strange book, as surprising and idiosyncratic as anything Coetzee has ever written. It consists of two lectures framed, in the manner of a novel, by the story of a tense encounter between a mother and her son.
The lecturer is Elizabeth Costello, a novelist who has been asked to deliver a series of talks on a subject of her choice at Appleton College just as Coetzee was asked to deliver the Tanner Lectures, on which the book is based. Mise en abyme, anyone? The son is John Bernard, who teaches at Appleton and is not pleased at the prospect of being reunited with his mother, a militant vegetarian.
Somewhere along the line, their relationship has developed into an emotional stand-off. Elizabeth Costello, like David Lurie, has a troubled relationship with her child. That she cannot extend this sympathy to her family has to do with her own fears, now that she is elderly, about her place in its hierarchy.
Her refusal to eat meat derives from a sense of her own kinship with the weak, and this sense of weakness is the key to her feelings about her son.