He stood a stranger in this breathing world, An erring spirit from another hurled; A thing of dark imaginings, that shaped. By choice the perils he by chance escaped
David Lurie may not be a morning person, or a man built for marriage, or even a man of many talents for that matter but what he is, is an enthusiast for educational endeavors. Now middle-aged, divorced twice, with a daughter somewhere in the country living a semi-charmed existence, David is beginning to question his occupation as he crosses the threshold into becoming an old man. At heart he is a communications professor with a love for modern languages, and has published three books on literary criticism to exhibit his passion. Dream has now made way to reality and life as he knows it has been relegated to teaching Romantic poetry. A course that has not been received well by his student’s mostly because of his own biases seeping through the curriculum, but also because it has been proved to be a difficult subject to broach to market to prospective students. Disillusionment from his profession coincided with the loss of his one and only true part-time companion and you have the makings of a man on the brink of a mental breakdown beyond the age where an earring and motorcycle can cure what ails.
He could At times resign his own for others’ good, But not in pity, not because he ought, But in some strange perversity of thought, That sway’d him onward with a secret pride To do what few or none would do beside; And this same impulse would, in tempting time, Mislead his spirit equally in crime.
Raised by a household with women he became a lover of the fairer sex which gradually devolved into a womanizing attitude when it came to love built on conditions. A master in the field of sex, especially his artistic flare and his scientific approach, David has honed his craft by frequenting motels and purchasing time off of a moralistic and exotic escort named Soraya. He has always been about double or even triple lives and secret identities, but once made aware of Soraya’s other life it puts an eternal strain on their casual relationship leaving David in a perpetual spin scared to stop and face the truth. He is finally beginning to believe that the world of promiscuity is a young person’s game, fracturing an already volatile psyche; that is until the following day’s class schedule. The incapacity to deny one’s own temperament is the first step in ruling them inhuman, for David this his sense of self. The loss of desire for some would lead to imminent death, while others would relish in undoing the shackles that only passion and desire can bring. With David the reward of a spiritual and sexual reawakening far outweighs the risk of being fired from a job that has become devoid of any passion or appreciation. Putting his reputation on the line never seemed like such an easy proposition.
” ‘A fire: what is remarkable about that? If a fire goes out, you strike a match and start another one. That is how used to think. Yet in the olden days people worshiped fire. They thought twice before letting a flame die, a flame-god. It was that kind of flame your daughter kindled in me. Not hot enough to burn me up, but real: real fire.’
In pursuit of this reawakening David decides to forego his principles and break his moral fibers for the feeling he has when being with a younger women. Despite rejection and the feeling of being in a one-sided affair with a present but disengaged partner, his heart and feelings of power and immortality overcome his head and feelings of vileness and disgrace. What was once thought of as a one-time thing, forms into a habit, and then an addiction that he knows will be craved but can’t fully be fulfilled. Like clockwork, who once we’re entwined lovers they will eventually become strained foes; he knows this. C’est la vie.
“On Wednesday she is in class, in her usual seat. They are still on Wordsworth, on Book 6 of The Prelude, the poet in the Alps. ‘From a bare ridge,’ he reads aloud,
we also first beheld
Unveiled the summit of Mont Blanc,and grieved
To have a soulless image on the eye
That had usurped upon a living thought
That never more could be.”
David seems to be about the impassioned love affairs whether they last eight years or a few weeks, in the end it never surpasses the first night together. For many that’s what should be expected when a relationship is based solely on physical characteristics and involves two people that could be mistaken for father and daughter or dare I say grandpa and granddaughter. There’s much more to it than that and despite his desperate need for self-actualization it is also a matter of self-preservation. After coming to grips with his new reality après affair, David believes it would be best to get away for a while and visit his hippie, communal daughter Lucy on her farm in Cape Town. Cape Town is widely known as a city of extreme beauty whether you’re talking about the coast or the people, David has had enough of the coast but the people may have seen enough of people like him and his binoculars peering from afar. He doesn’t know whether he is cruel in nature or kind at heart, to him at this stage in his life he should have himself all figured out but he couldn’t be more disjointed. One thing he has in his favour is his ability to feel a sense of compassion, however minute it may be. His trip to his estranged daughter’s farm has finally let the reality of his age settle in. He has grown tired, has became an indifferent shell without hopes or desires and is headed into an abyss that he can’t escape hoping the freedom of the rural area will inspire him.
For the most part Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee highlights a post-Apartheid reality where one character is slowly thriving for salvation and another is steadily headed for personal destruction with no rights, no dignity and a paralyzing indifference to it all; the beauty and the burden of living with desires. The parallels between the two worlds and the roles of gender and race were so raw, unique, profound, and unexpected that it turned a good story into a searing one. Much, much more than a book about a man dealing with sexual frustration and his own mortality, this book shows that in time spent away from loved ones you can’t fully end the dream of realizing unconditional love. David echoes his daughters sentiments and hopes that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The question in turn should be posed to the residents of a country that have been predisposed to hate as a way of life and a way of life that has gone to the dogs. Recommended.
“You don’t understand, you weren’t there,” says Bev Shaw. Well, she is mistaken. Lucy’s intuition is right after all: he does understand; he can, if he concentrates, if he loses himself, be there, be the men inhabit them, fill them with the ghost of himself. The question is, does he have it in him to be the woman?”
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