A lecturer at a technical university has an affair with a student, is found out and resigns under a cloud of scandal and recrimination. He seeks refuge with his daughter, who ekes out a living alone on an isolated farm, protected by dogs and a gun. But a brutal attack underlines the fact that here, in the Eastern Cape of post-apartheid South Africa, the bitterness of history is ever-present.
Disgrace is a short and concentrated narrative with breathtaking impact. On one level, it is a page-turning account of a scandal and its fallout; the strained relationship between a father and his adult daughter; the mistrustful relations between neighbours of different races in a lonely rural setting. On another it reveals, with ruthless honesty, how relations between blacks and whites, powerful and powerless, men and women, are poisoned by history. Born in Cape Town in 1940, Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 2003. Disgrace was the Booker Prize-winner in 1999. In a newly commissioned introduction, South African writer Christopher Hope describes Disgrace as being at once ‘the least parochial of novels’ and ‘a quintessential South African story’. Illustrations by Andrew Gibson, in his first commission for Folio, use an outline treatment which blurs the racial divides in this subtle, disturbing and unforgettable book.
'J. M. Coetzee’s unforgettable, unsettling novel, published on the cusp of the 21st century, powerfully depicts the awkward truce, both political and personal, between the inhabitants of the “new” South Africa. He paints a stark picture of a people in thrall to the injustices of the past, epitomised by his vainglorious, jaded anti-hero David Lurie. In this bleak, brave new world, what hope is there for them not simply to coexist but to flourish side by side in the post-apartheid era? This is a profoundly moving work, written in Coetzee’s customary spare, elegant prose. On first reading, the impact it had on me was so great that I immediately turned to the first page and began the book again.’