Quotes from Disgrace

J.M. Coetzee ·  220 pages

Rating: (67.4K votes)


“(I)f we are going to be kind, let it be out of simple generosity, not because we fear guilt or retribution.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“His own opinion, which he does not air, is that the origin of speech lie in song, and the origins of song in the need to fill out with sound the overlarge and rather empty human soul.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“He continues to teach because it provides him with a livelihood; also because it teaches him humility, brings it home to him who he is in the world. The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons, while those who come to learn learn nothing.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“Because a woman's beauty does not belong to her alone. It is a part of the bounty she brings into the world. She has a duty to share it.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“It’s admirable, what you do, what she does, but to me animal-welfare people are a bit like Christians of a certain kind. Everyone is so cheerful and well-intentioned that after a while you itch to go off and do some raping and pillaging. Or to kick a cat.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace



“Was it serious? I don't know. It certainly had serious consequences.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“It gets harder all the time, Bev Shaw once said. Harder, yet easier. One gets used to things getting harder; one ceases to be surprised that what used to be hard as hard can be grows harder yet.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“Poetry speaks to you either at first sight or not at all. A flash of revelation and a flash of response.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“But the truth, he knows, is otherwise. His pleasure in living has been snuffed out. Like a leaf on a stream, like a puffball on a breeze, he has begun to float towards his end. He sees it quite clearly, and it fills him with (the word will not go away) despair. The blood of life is leaving his body and despair is taking its place, despair that is like a gas, odourless, tasteless, without nourishment. You breathe it in, your limbs relax, you cease to care, even at the moment when the steel touches your throat.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“She gives him what he can only call a sweet smile. 'So you are determined to go on being bad. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know. I promise, no one will ask you to change.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace



“For himself, then. For his idea of the world, a world in which men do not use shovels to beat corpses into a more convenient shape for processing.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“he knows too much about himself to subject her to a morning after, when he will be cold, surly, impatient to be alone.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“Scapegoating worked in practice while it still had religious powers behind it. You loaded the sins of the city on to the goat’s back and drove it out, and the city was cleansed. It worked because everyone knew how to read the ritual, including the gods. Then the gods died, and all of a sudden you had to cleanse the city without divine help. Real actions were demanded instead of symbolism. The censor was born, in the Roman sense. Watchfulness became the watchword: the watchfulness of all over all. Purgation was replaced by the purge.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“I don't think we are ready to die, any of us, not without being escorted.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“He would not mind hearing Petrus's story one day. But preferably not reduced to English. More and more he is convinced that English is an unfit medium for the truth of South Africa. Stretches of English code whole sentences long have thickened, lost their articulations, their articulateness, their articulatedness. Like a dinosaur expiring and settling in the mud, the language has stiffened. Pressed into the mold of English, Petrus's story would come out arthritic, bygone"(117).”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace



“His mind has become a refuge for old thoughts, idle, indigent, with nowhere else to go. He ought to chase them out, sweep the premises clean. But he does not care to do so, or does not care enough"(72).”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“I'm sorry, my child, I just find it hard to whip up an interest in the subject. It's admirable, what you do, what she does, but to me animal-welfare people are a bit like Christians of a certain kind. Everyone is so cheerful and well-intentioned that after a while you itch to go off and do some raping and pillaging. Or to kick a cat.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“Temperament is fixed, set. The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body. Follow your temperament. It is not a philosophy, It is a rule, like the Rule of St Benedict.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“He would not mind hearing Petrus’s story one day. But preferably not reduced to English. More and more he is convinced that English is an unfit medium for the truth of South Africa.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“Hatred . . . When it comes to men and sex, David, nothing surprises me any more. Maybe, for men, hating the woman makes sex more exciting. You are a man, you ought to know. When you have sex with someone strange - when you trap her, hold her down, get her under you, put all your weight on her - isn't it a killing? Pushing the knife in; exiting afterwards, leaving the body behind covered in blood - doesn't it feel like murder, like getting away with murder?”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace



“Do you hope you can expiate the crimes of the past by suffering in the present?”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“So it has come, the day of testing. Without warning, without fanfare, it is here, and he is in the middle of it. In his chest his heart hammers so hard that it too, in its dumb way, must know. How will they stand up to the testing, he and his heart?”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“She does not reply. She would rather hide her face, and he knows why. Because of the disgrace. Because of the shame. That is what their visitors have achieved; that is what they have done to this confidant, modern young woman. Like a stain the story is spreading across the district. Not her story to spread but theirs: they are its owners. How they put her in her place, how they showed her what a woman was for.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“Maybe. But in my experience poetry speaks to you either at first sight or not at all. A flash of revelation and a flash of response. Like lightning. Like falling in love.’ Like falling in love. Do the young still fall in love, or is that mechanism obsolete by now, unnecessary, quaint, like steam locomotion? He is out of touch, out of date. Falling in love could have fallen out of fashion and come back again half a dozen times, for all he knows.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“Craniul,si apoi temperamentul:cele mai solide parti din corpul omenesc.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace



“..., según mi experiencia la poesía te habla y te llega a primera vista o no te llegará nunca. Hay un destello de revelación y un destello reflejo de respuesta. Es como el rayo. Como enamorarse.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“Vengeance is like a fire. The more it devours, the hungrier it gets.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


“In a sudden and soundless eruption, as if he has fallen into a waking dream, a stream of images pours down, images of women he has known on two continents, some from so far away in time that he barely recognizes them. Like leaves blown on the wind, pell-mell, they pass before him. A fair field full of folk: hundreds of lives all tangled with his. He holds his breath, willing the vision to continue.

What has happened to them, all those women, all those lives? Are there moments when they too, or some of them, are plunged without warning into the ocean of memory? The German girl: is it possible that at this very instant she is remembering the man who picked her up on the roadside in Africa and spent the night with her?

Enriched: that was the word the newspapers picked on to jeer at. A stupid word to let slip, under the circumstances, yet now, at this moment, he would stand by it. By Melanie, by the girl in Touws River; by Rosalind, Bev Shaw, Soraya: by each of them he was enriched, and by the others too, even the least of them, even the failures. Like a flower blooming in his breast, his heart floods with thankfulness.”
― J.M. Coetzee, quote from Disgrace


About the author

J.M. Coetzee
Born place: in Cape Town, South Africa
Born date February 9, 1940
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