Afterthoughts: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

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Disgrace is such an apt title for this book: our interpretation of it evolves in complexity and nuance the deeper in the story you go. It was a much heavier read than I was anticipating – so much so that after finishing this I am committing to only lighter reads for the foreseeable future. While I enjoyed it, I don’t know if I’d recommend it, not unless you are up for a challenge.

I’ll be the first to admit a lot of Coetzee does goes over my head. This is despite the fact that I took my time reading this, compared to other books of similar length. There is just so much going on with regards to disgrace: David’s indiscretions, the inevitability of death in the animal clinic, Lucy’s plight, Petrus’ callousness. On reading other reviews, what I missed were the political and class overtones given that it is a story set in post-apartheid South Africa. Having said that, this is a work I can see that would benefit from multiple readings, provided you can bear the strain.

The biggest mark that I left the book with was just the hopelessness of the final words:

“’How humiliating, ‘ he says finally. ‘Such high hopes, and to end like this.’ ‘Yes, I agree, it is humiliating. But perhaps that is a good point to start from again. Perhaps that is what I must learn to accept. To start at ground level. With nothing. Not with nothing but… With nothing. No cards, no weapons, no property, no rights, no dignity.’‘Like a dog.”Yes, like a dog.'”


Not recommended unless you are game for an intense and challenging read. If I had even an inkling of what was coming up, I probably not have dove in as carelessly as I did. It exacts a high emotional toll.

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