In a masterpiece, the meaning is never exhausted. J. M. Coetzee, born in 1940 in Cape town, was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2003. Disgrace (1999) is considered as a masterpiece of literature by international critics. We are in the head of David Lurie. He is a professor at the technical university of Cape town ; he was fifty-two years ; he has been married twice ; he has one daughter, Lucy, born of his first marriage. David Lurie is a don Juan aging. The women do not meet, as before, to its solicitations of a seducer. Its charm has ceased to operate with them. The Afrikaner became as transparent. He must run after women ; he has to buy women. He travels regularly in an escort-girl by the name of Soraya. It is as well sexually satisfied. David Lurie surprises Soraya a day, in the street, with her two young sons. She no longer wants to see it. The professor set his sights on a pretty student of twenty years. They have a link. J. M. Coetzee describes, in a remarkable manner, the " grey area ". The professor is accused of sexual harassment. It passes in front of a commission university. They don't want answers, they demand a confession. The professor leaves the university. He found refuge with his daughter twenty-five years.
Lucy lives alone on a farm in the province of the Eastern Cape. It keeps the dogs in the pension. His girlfriend, Helen, is a party. Lucy has as a neighbour of Petrus. The black farmer is the future of the country. David Lurie spends time in a centre for animals to make himself useful. It helps a woman in charge to euthanize dogs in order to shorten their suffering. It gets rid of the body of animals in the incinerator of a hospital. The metaphor of animal saturates the text from the beginning to the end. Lives-you not like dogs ? The drama occurs. The father and daughter are attacked and kidnapped by three black men. Lucy Lurie is violated. The chasm is widening between the father and the daughter. The father wants as she complains and leaves at the earliest a dangerous country for a white woman to be isolated. His logic : the three men have committed a crime and must be reported to be severely judged. The girl does not complain and wants to build his life on a beloved land. His logic : it accepts the need to atone for the mistakes of the colonial past in suffering and wishes to stop the cycle of revenge. David accuses him of being in the guilt ; Lucy promises to be in the responsibility. She moves about her rapists : "They consider themselves to be creditors, who come to collect on a debt, a tax. By what right could I live here without paying my due ? Perhaps this is what they say. "
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David Lurie is a man of the Enlightenment. He describes himself as an " old game ". It stigmatizes a puritan age where the private life is judged by the public court ; he does not like women who make no effort to seduction to please men ; he prepares the opera on Byron and place the culture above all. Professor afrikaner feels superior to everybody and everything. His daughter represents its share of light. He feels for Lucy is an absolute love. His homosexuality is not and never commented. The questions that he was not when he was abusing a young student, he will be asked in the face of his daughter raped. "If, after an assault like that, it was no longer ever be the same ? If an assault like that you changed all that and made you someone else, someone much darker ? "David Lurie is a seducer not a rapist, but the student, with whom he has maintained a connection, has suffered from a severe depression afterwards.
The writer never disappears in manichaeism
Disgrace is the great novel of all fractures present. While there is separation to the father ; while there is oppression for the girl. Men and women, intellectuals and manuals, the Black and White, old and young people. The father begging his daughter to publicly condemn the rapists, and not to lose the sense of honor. It prevents it : to want too live with them, she won't be able to live with herself. In Africa, post-apartheid, the man of Enlightenment finds out that there is always a "them" and " us ".
After a certain age, one is too old to take advantage of the lessons it gives us.
J. M. Coetzee poses the questions, but does not have the answers. David Lurie is a character of immense ambiguity. He recognizes the crimes of yesterday and the crimes of today. But it embodies the male western individualistic and arrogant, carved in the abstraction and erudition. He asks : "Should I change ? "It is both saved and lost by his main character trait : clarity. David Lurie confesses to the father of the young student : "I will say that normally, after a certain age, one is too old to take advantage of the lessons it gives us. All that remains, is to be punished, and even punished. "David Lurie is about changes to the world as it was in the face of the commission university. He shows an ironic, intelligent and helpless. He does not give in, but he loses.Disgrace is a novel about defeat. The last lines are dedicated to the dogs who die.
Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee, trad. Catherine Lauga du Plessis, Threshold, 260 pages, 19,30 euros.