I can’t explain why I’ve never read J. M. Coetzee until two weeks ago. I always meant to dig into this Nobel Prize winner from South Africa, but never got around to it. Fortunately, a sudden flurry of articles about Coetzee inspired me to grab a copy of Disgrace for a recent airplane flight.
What a book. Disgrace is a brisk morality tale involving two mirror-image incidents of sexual abuse. One incident begins as a vapid collegiate professor-student affair, but the other begins with a brutal rape that then forms the nucleus of an even greater crime, the complete submission of a human being to a degraded state of life. This book offers a potent mix of guilt and outrage, racial disharmony and sexual disharmony, and it makes provocative connections in several ambigious directions. It’s the kind of powerful book I always hoped Philip Roth would write (but he never did). Subtle notes of Nabokov, Kafka and Nietzsche abound. Not bad for an airplane book.
I am now reading three new Coetzee books at once: Waiting for the Barbarians, Elizabeth Costello and the collected literary essays. (The new one? Looks intriguing, but you know how I feel about hardcovers. I’ll stick with the backlist.)
Any other J. M. Coetzee readers out there?