Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee

Disgrace rushes; and then it meanders; and then, like its broken anti-hero, it anti-climaxes. The reader's task is to either resist or embrace its slow collapse. Resist it and you side with the world's optimistic fools (secular liberals). Embrace it and you side with its despairing realists (everyone else). Regardless, the same fate—obsolescence, ugliness, disgrace—awaits.

Because for this particular South African novelist the modern State, which is good for little but moralizing and obfuscation, will see to it that you're denied life's fundamental pleasures. It will deny you beauty. It will deny you privacy. It will deny you the intellectual and physical capacity to construct for yourself an ethical life.

And History, which is the State's official narrative and is most succinctly embodied by your neighbors, is a rapist.

Decency—rare in Coetzee's world—manifests itself as brokenness. If you haven't been broken, you're a monster. If you have been broken, you devote your life to the welfare of animals.

In the protagonist's anti-climax we arrive at Coetzee's primary theme: disgrace, in the age of brutalism, is actually grace, and might be a road to redemption.

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