Sobriquet 46.23

Since I haven't yet done so, I am going to use this post to mention some of the articles I never got around to discussing when my access to the internet was limited to brief sessions in crowded library computer labs as well as a few of those essays I neglected to write about when I felt too tired to type anything worth reading.

In his brief review marking the release of Disgrace in paperback, Michael Holland rather pithily writes "[c]olonialism at best is the tyranny of the paternal. Disgrace is not knowing when to let go," an observation I believe adroitly synthesizes several of the central themes running through Coetzee's narrative. Indeed, the colonial past haunts David Lurie, the man many critics view as an embodiment of apartheid-era white privilege, who struggles to adjust to the post-apartheid society into which history has thrust him. Indeed, as Tony Freemantle writes, David Lurie "no longer has control in the new social order" and, accordingly, "he cannot find his place in this unfamiliar land" (15). Furthermore, the refusal to "let go" highlighted by Holland extends beyond the political sphere, into Lurie's bedroom, where the professor's "libido . . . won't politely fade away with flagging physical appeal and status." Disgrace, then, "develops into a debate between generations," revealing the social, political, sexual, and ontological fissures separating David Lurie's generation from that of his daughter and post-apartheid South Africa in general (Adams). I also read Suzanne Rhodenbaugh's early review of the novel in which she views the "disillusionment and emptiness" David Lurie experiences as signs of an existential crisis (12). As always, I tend to agree with the existential reading, having written (and published) essays highlighting precisely this concern. All bias aside, though, Rhodenbaugh does provide one of the better American reviews of the novel, especially among the early critics.

In addition to the reviews mentioned above, I also read Agata Krzychylkiewicz's survey of Coetzee's reception in Russia, which highlights several interesting readings of Disgrace, as well as the author's other novels, especially (and, perhaps, predictably) The Master of Petersburg. The Russian critics Krzychylkiewicz cites tend to view Coetzee's narrative as both a supremely realized example of literary refinement and an extremely bleak, often painful-to-read depiction of modern life. Particularly illustrative of the Russian response to the novel is the reviewer for NaStoiaschaia literatura's comment that Disgrace is an "echellent and at the same time hopeless novel" that presents a "repugnant" world in which "[o]ne can get on . . . only when one submits to it" (qtd. in Krzychylkiewicz). Likewise, Dmitrii Olshanskii claims that, for Coetzee, "life [is] chaotic and terrifying" while the anonymous reviewer writing for Knizhnyi klub asserts that "[t]he topic of the book is as always in Coetzee's writing twisted and dizzy" (qtd. in Krzychylkiewicz).

For tomorrow: Read another essay.

Works Cited

Adams, Phoebe-Lou. "Brief Reviews." The Atlantic Monthly. March 2000. Available online.

Freemantle, Tony. "The 'New South Africa': Damaged Souls Struggle For Redemption, Answers." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. Houston Chronicle 19 Dec. 1999: 15.

Holland, Michael. Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. The Observer. 23 April 2000.

Hollands, Glenn. "Sophisticated Award Winner." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. The Dispatch. 20 May 2000. Available Online.

Krzychylkiewicz, Agata. "The Reception of J. M. Coetzee in Russia." Journal of Literary Studies 21.3-4 (2005): 338-368.

Rhodenbaugh, Suzanne. "Professor Takes on the Coils of Predator, Loving Father in 'Dog's Life' Existence." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12 Dec. 1999: 12.


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