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Disgrace- J M Coetzee- Novel Summary

Updated: Apr 9, 2022


David Lurie a man of 52 years old and twice divorced meets Soraya a prostitute in Windsor Mansions weekly once on Thursdays for a 90 minutes section. Soraya is tall and slim, with long black hair and dark liquid eyes with a honey-brown skin woman around 22 yrs. David tells everything to her. He shares his feelings, whereas Soraya is a puzzle. David knows Soraya is not her real name and he assumes she should be a mother of 2 children. On one Saturday morning, he meets her in public for the first time. In the next session, they do not share the incident. She informs him that she is to leave the job because her mother is sick. David uses a detective and finds her mobile number. Soraya totally denies that she knew any David Lurie and threatens him not to call her again.

David is an adjunct professor of Communications in Cape Town. He is offered to take one special-field course a year, this time he chooses the Romantic Poets. He has also published 3 books, Bioto and the Faust Legend: The Genisis of Mefistofele (an Opera), The Vision of Richard of St Victor (on the vision of eros), Wordsworth and the Burden of Past (on Wordsworth and history), currently he is working on an opera on the life of Lord Byron (Byron in Italy). He meets a teenage girl named Melanie Isaccs, a student in the Romantic Poets class. Whom he lures and has a physical relationship. Melanie seems to be puzzled because though she has a boyfriend she does not stop him from making love instead she helps him. Later, this becomes an issue and comes to an enquiry from the harassment committee of the college. David meets his ex-wife Rosalind in-between and explains how he has gone into a disgraceful issue. The committee asks him to publicly request his mistakes and keep his job, but he denies and resigns.

David then moves from Cape Town to the Town of Salem in the Eastern Cape to spend some days with his only daughter Lucy Lurie. She moved to Salem 5 years with her girlfriend Helen, David helped her to buy a house. Now he is to meet his daughter with such a disgraceful incident. Lucy is a lesbian. She has a farm and is well adapted to country life. Her neighbor and friend Petrus, a Black, countryman who works for Lucy, is soon to leave the job and have his own farm is currently building his home. David finds this village really relaxing after that hearing (investigation). He goes to the market early in the morning with his daughter and gets introduced to Lucy’s friends over there.

David is then introduced to Bev Shaw. He starts working with Bev in her dog clinic. In the meantime, he also develops his Opera on Lord Byron. Lord Byron’s life in Italy is his target subject. Right now he focuses on Contessa Guiccioli and Byron’s illicit affair. On a Wednesday Lucy and David standing in the dam admiring the geese see three men going towards their home. When they inquire about those strangers, they inform her that they are from Erasmuskraal inside the forestry concession and need to telephone because there is an accident. So Lucy takes the one who needs to talk inside the house leaving, David and the other two men out. Among them, one is a teenager. They turn out to be robbers. They beat up David, lock him up in a bathroom, burn him with alcohol, rape Lucy and leave the house with David’s car and all the house holdings.

David gets admitted to the hospital and all his burns get treated by the doctor. This rape makes Lucy’s life really sick. David feels guilty that he did not help his daughter when she actually wanted him. Lucy did not get into a normal lifestyle till Petrus invites them to his housewarming party. (Petrus was gone when this rape and loot happened. Even after coming back home, he stays quiet without enquiring. This creates suspicion). In the house warming party, David sees the teenage boy from the rapist group speaking with Petrus. This provokes him, yet Lucy stops him from any further actions. To give her space he works with Bev for many hours together. They end up having a physical relationship on the floor in the clinic.

One day David gets a call from the Grahamstown police station regarding the robbery case because (Lucy did not complain about a rape case against them). It’s informed that David’s car has been found. Both David and Lucy go to the police station but Lucy stays inside the car. That was a false alarm, David didn’t get his car. While driving back home, in the car David and Lucy get into a conversation about that day (the day she got raped). Lucy tells David how they hated her and wanted to suppress her in the act. She also confronts David about how it feels to be a man and force a woman to sleep with him. David says it’s the effect of the apartheid, the Blacks trying to take revenge for their ancestors.

David leaves Salem because he wanted to go back and see his home. Before that, he feels like going to George and apologizing to Melenaie Issacs’ father Mr. Issacs to explain his side of the story. There is George he meets her family and asks apology. After getting back to Cape Town he finds his home robbed. In the meantime, he fails with his old concept in his work (Opera, Byron in Italy). He then chooses the dead Byron and longing, Teressa, in her father’s house as his subject. David gets a phone call from Bev, she tells him that Lucy needs his presence and so he drives back to the Eastern Cape.

There he gets to know that Lucy is pregnant. Enraged, he goes to meet Petrus and ask him where the boy is. Petrus in turn offers a marriage proposal (Petrus weds Lucy). He also insists David inform her, the proposal. Lucy to the shock of David accepts the proposal but with some strict queries. David ends up living there in the Eastern Cape near to his daughter (not in the same house). Working in Bev Shaw’s clinic and composing his Opera.

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