Monday, June 4, 2007

Disgrace, by Coetzee

This is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel of a teacher, his daughter, and a family seeking justice for a terrible crime. Having read _Cry, the Beloved Country_, I was prepared for this novel to be good but average. South Africa's history lends itself well to deep, haunting fiction, but Mr. Coetzee's writing style is unique. For example, the language used here is stunning, such as inamorata; hypnagogic; jonquil; and verbena. These are not typical words one sees in any novel, but they are placed in a way that makes the entire book seem onomatopoetic, if that is possible. In addition, the characters' thoughts are delightful to see: at one point, the main character analyzes the word, "friend." It comes from freond, and then from freon, meaning love. In other words, a friend is literally a lover. Without divulging too much, _Disgrace_ absorbs the reader in an exciting plot while serving a cold dish of racial karma--it's the literary equivalent of being injected with botulin while happily dining at a Parisian restaurant. When you finish this story of a family in South Africa that has to deal with the changing demographics around it, if you understand the author's subtle point, you will view the world differently and hopefully more humanely.

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