Author- Maria Santana
J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace provides insight on the contemporary dire situation in South Africa. The novel takes place in post-apartheid South Africa. We are introduced to David Lurie, a college professor in South Africa. Twice divorced, Lurie believes that a women’s beauty ‘does not belong to her alone’. Melanie Isaacs is one of his students who he invites over to his place cooks and sleeps with her. Isaacs files a report of sexual misconduct against Lurie. He is then asked by the college faculty to publicly apologize. After his refusal to, this led to his ‘disgrace’ where Lurie was fired. He leaves Capetown for the Eastern Cape where he goes to meet with his daughter, Lucy, to help her with her farm.
Upon Luries’s arrival, Lucy introduces her father to the Shaw’s and to Petrus. Lurie gets distracted and spoken to by two men who enter the house and gets gang raped by three men and ends up pregnant. After the incident, Petrus has a party and invites Lucy and her father. It is clear that Petrus, a black South African, protects the young black boys. Lurie cannot understand Petrus’s behavior or Lucy’s after the incident.
Lurie is a main character whom you do not know how to feel about. He is complex just like the issues in South Africa. It is evident that Lucy’s rape was both their disgrace and is something they have to live with. Lucy accepts the dire consequences of the ordeal but at the same time has difficulty coping with it. She decides to keep the baby and it seems as though she is trying to make some form of ‘reconciliation’ with a past she has nothing to do with. What I mean is that white guilt is being displayed and felt here. To add more to the ‘disgrace’, Lucy stays in the village and house where she experienced the traumatic episode. Lucy represents the victims of South Africa post apartheid.
A lot can be said about the novel but Coetzee wants his readers to see different situations and to make their own interpretations. Disgrace is an indirect critique of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Also known as the TRC, it was established in 1996 after the collapse of the apartheid policy in 1994. It was spearheaded by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to heal old wounds caused during the apartheid period. Tutu was meant to bring in a form of forgiveness that comes from Christian tradition that is problematic for me. Victims or perpetrators of crimes committed in South Africa would be confessed and no legal action would take place with hopes of forgiveness. Please look at www.justice.gov.za for more information on this commission.
The TRC was based on the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No 34 of 1995 “… a commission is a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation.”
Mr Dullah Omar, former Minister of Justice
Coetzee’s book raised awareness about the crimes and the issues that arose after the apartheid policy was lifted. Capetown was once known as the rape capital of the world in the post-apartheid period. Stockholm, Sweden is now the new rape capital of the world so do your research as to why. There is presently a genocide of whites in South Africa but very little awareness is raised. Boer farmers and their descendants are being killed, maimed, raped and other form of heinous crime imaginable. These crimes have been caused because of the end of apartheid policy. This article is not going to try to sugarcoat anything but South Africa was much safer and even cleaner before the apartheid policy was lifted.
Nelson Mandela, a terrorist, became president of the country after serving a long prison sentence. The conditions in South Africa had worsened for all sectors of the population: blacks, whites, Indians and ‘colored’. The situation of whites in South Africa has and will continue to be ignored because it would be racist to report black on white crimes. A lot of these crimes in South Africa were also reported more than ever before after apartheid. According to an article by Front Page Mag, the crimes promoted here have to do with leftists covering and lying about it. To conclude this article, I will incorporate a section of the book Disgrace when Lurie was speaking to Isaacs’s parents. This quote perfectly sums up what has and will continue to the whites in South Africa if awareness and action does not take place. I am comparing South African whites to dogs. “Perhaps that is what I must learn to accept,” she tells her father. “To start at ground level. With nothing … No cards, no weapons, no property, no rights, no dignity … Like a dog.”