Tuesday, 17 February 2015

BOOK REVIEW : DISGRACE by J.M.COETZEE

DECEPTIVE :(a) intended to make         someone believe something that is not true
                     :(b) likely to make someone believe something that is not true
This word has a negative flavour but I somehow really like this word and love to use it in my vocabulary. Though whether I am deceptive or not is another topic completely :))
I was introduced to this word at the age of 13-14. The story behind this introduction goes something like this:
I had just turned a teen when the oldest of my cousins (from my maternal side) got married. When this didi (elder sister) of mine had come to Guwahati for the first time after her marriage, we would not leave her alone at all. We would follow her around all the time and keep asking her about her life in Delhi in a new household. It was all so fascinating for us, especially any mention of her husband, our first Jijaji( brother in law)!!! Everyone would tease her that she's very lucky to have found such a simple guy as her soulmate. Her answer for some reason is etched in my memory and is my first brush with the word "deceptive".. Didi had answered that Jijaji was as simple as a bamboo which though seems straight, is full of knots from the inside. She further added that looks are deceptive and we should not go by looks alone!!!
This word and especially this phrase caught my fancy and till date I enjoy using it!!!
I am sure all of you are at your wits end wondering why this off the track story and its relation to my post..
Hmmmmm.. No mystery here.. Please bear with me for some more lines...
After my debacle with The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk , I was determined to only read books whose page limit does not go beyond 300-350. While checking online, this book Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee  fitted the requirement to the T. It is a thin book of a total 220 pages. OK, now people, I am not that weird that I would just buy a book based on its length. The author the esteemed J.M.Coetzee, is the winner of the 1999 Booker Prize and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2003, which was another convincing reason to go for this book.
Now this story is what I would truly call a deceptive one. The story seems to be a very simple one with a straightforward storyline. The book begins by introducing the readers to David Lurie, professor of English who teaches romantic literature in a technical college in Cape Town. He is twice divorced and is very dissatisfied with his work. He is 'disgraced' when he forcibly seduces a young student of his, Melanie. When he refuses to honestly and truthfully accept his mistake, he is forced to resign from his teaching post. After being dismissed from the teaching job he goes off to live with his daughter Lucy, who lives on a farm in the countryside. Though the father and daughter are not close to each other, the initial few days are spent smoothly and peacefully. But this camaraderie does not last long as David and Lucy become victims of a hideous crime wherein not only are they looted, physically assaulted, Lucy is even raped by the assailants, which she considers as a 'disgrace'.
This sudden twist and the subsequent handling of the story and the reaction of the main characters left me both surprised and shocked. Surprised at the simplicity of narrative which resulted in a powerful fiction and shocked at the impact it had on my psyche. I was not able to shake off the heavy feeling which lay over me for days after I finished the story. I was just not able to come in terms with the way Lucy behaves post the brutal rape. Its like she has chosen the role of a martyr. It is the role she has adopted for herself, the price she has decided she has to pay for being a white woman living in the South African countryside.
This is an extremely complex book, with a lot going on. At its core, it's about gender politics, treatment of animals at the hands of humans and race, specifically about race relations in modern-day South Africa. So what is the disgrace that the title refers to??? David's disgrace at the beginning of the book, being caught in an affair with a student? The disgrace Lucy feels from the rape? The disgraceful behavior of the rapists and of Petrus, who is protecting them and may possibly have instigated the whole incident in the first place?
Wow.. This was some real heavy stuff... This was why I wrote at the begining, of this story being a deceptive one. I was totally taken for a ride in believing that its going to be a easy read of 200+pages. Boy!! Was I in for a surprise... You have to give it to Coetzee to write so magnificently and highlight the grave issues relevant in an apartheid post South Africa.  He writes a  tight story which does not let you escape from the uneasiness on being faced with our own internal prejudices and personal demons. Very uncomfortable and literally shook me to the core. No wonder I was soo low since the past one week.
Lastly awesome book to read but only if you have a strong stomach!!!!

1 comment:

  1. you write only so much to raise the curiosity...

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