“His soul stretched tight across the skies

That fade behind a city block,

Or trampled by insistent feet”

-T.S. Eliot

 

Dystopia is one of my favourite genres. I just love how the author paints a world where everything is wrong and in a mess and there is one character or characters fighting against it and for themselves. The better it sounds the difficult it is to actually deal with. Acting on the suggestion of my favourite teacher, I picked up Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, a dystopian novel which was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003 and Booker Prize in 1999.

Set in the South African city of Cape Town, the book follows the story an English Professor, David Lurie, middle-aged and twice divorced, who has an impulsive affair with one of his students. The affair sours; he is denounced and summoned before a committee of inquiry. He is willing to admit his guilt but he refuses to yield to pressure to repent publicly, he resigns and retreats to his daughter Lucy’s isolated smallholding. However, his escape to the countryside is not welcomed with warmth and mirth. He and his daughter become victims of a savage attack which brings into relief all the faultlines in their relationship.

The setting of this book is fabulous and apt, set in the regions of Africa dominated by anarchy, racist attitudes, where seeing someone die in front of your eyes is not really a big deal resonates in each and every character of the book. For literature lovers, you will enjoy this book because the use of some literary allusions gives the story its final shape. Moving into the language and writing, I don’t think any other author could have managed to present the book they way Coetzee has. With his excellent use of simple words, subtle images, presentation of character born in a violent environment, this book actually stands out from other dystopian fictions I have read. Although, I wouldn’t say this is my favourite dystopian novel. To fully grasp the stuff this book deals with, I believe, it requires a certain age and maturity which I haven’t achieved until now. Anyway, I would surely pick this book up after three-four years and read it.