Reading About South Africa: Disgrace

My first pick for South Africa is Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee. This novel won The Booker Prize in 1999, and the author was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.


Infuriating. Challenging. Hauntingly full, and yet totally empty. Masterfully written, but very uncomfortable. There were a few times I wanted to throw it across the room.

I hated just about everyone in it,  but the protagonist was seriously the worst. Beyond loathsome. Was I meeting the author?  That lazily cruel voice of privilege, that grades people on the level of desire (women) or fear (men) they provoke…if you get the wrong kind of marks for the purpose you’re supposed to serve, well, bad luck for you.

Is this what the violence and cruelty of Apartheid did to the people who lived through and, in the case of the white characters in this book, benefited from?

Tough stuff all the way around.

View of Cape Town, from Robbin Island
View of Cape Town, from Robbin Island
(image by Matthias Kniese) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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