« oregon plato | Main | Death, Lives and Videotapes »


Kevin O'Neill

The Dispossession of David Lurie


Our craft is all in reading the other: gaps, inverses, undersides; the veiled; the dark; the buried, the feminine; alterities.

                        J.M. Coetzee  White Writing


 . . . those who have indulged in gluttony and violence and drunkenness, and have taken no pains to avoid them, are likely to pass into the bodies of asses and other beasts of that sort. And those who have chosen injustice and tyranny and robbery pass into the body of wolves . . .

                        Plato  Phaedo 81E – 82A.


What happens to David Lurie in Disgrace? Having been dispossessed of his place and identity in the world of reason, he discovers, or rediscovers, a new way of knowing, as well as a new way of being, that exist, and have always existed, beyond the reach of traditional Western categories of mind and body.[1] Coetzee, through Lurie, privileges the body and the senses as vehicles for knowing and being, and in so doing he reveals a profound connection between his protagonist and the animals whose bodies, passions and senses traditional philosophy has devalued or ignored, and among whom Lurie, dispossessed, spends more and more of his life.[2] I will argue further that Coetzee’s rejection of Western rationalism and his emphasis on embodiment and on the human connection to animal bodies and feelings is anything but celebratory. It is, rather, tragic. Coetzee privileges the body without a glimmer of the hope that marks other contemporary approaches that see the rediscovery of the body as a cause for celebration.[3] If they find a principle of life and liberation in the body, Coetzee finds only death and obloquy, albeit a death and an obloquy that evoke and sustain a hard kind of love. He believes in an embodied soul for all living things, and in unique subjectivity for all animals, but he rejects the idea that such a soul can live past the death of its body.[4]  Still, he believes that once we know about these embodied souls we must honor and mourn each passing one. On one level, we can read Disgrace as a sketch for a new metaphysics and epistemology based in the body, and on another as a primer for the care of souls, an ethic of care for subjectivities that have no hope of transcendence.  Coetzee himself put this succinctly: “It is not possible to deny the authority of suffering and therefore of the body” (248), and in Disgrace, Lurie finds no way to deny it. 

But Lurie discovers this world of the embodied soul only after he has become a scapegoat, driven out of his city environment and his country refuge by his inability to make himself clear to anyone. This is a deviation from the theme of the Bildungsroman, because rather than developing Lurie seems to devolve. This is a story in which the protagonist comes to deeper self-understanding not by transcending his situation, but by sinking beneath it. As Marais pus it” there is much evidence in Disgrace to support the claim that Coetzee has furnished Disgrace with the structure of an anti-Bildungsroman”(79).  He loses every rational argument in which he attempts to maintain his status in the human life-world. Lurie cannot think or speak as others think and speak, and is therefore thrust “down” the scale of being to the world of animals, where he learns new lessons about the nature of the soul and the meaning of identity.[5]

By the end of the novel Lurie has lost his name—he is “a mad old man who sits among the dogs singing to himself” (212) and “simply a man who began arriving on Mondays with the bags for Animal Welfare” (145).  He, like the dog he refuses to name (215), has become anonymous. What little self-understanding he ever thought he had is gone. He tells Bev Shaw (210), “I don’t know what the question is, anymore”. He has lost whatever idea he ever had of himself, and become like the dogs among whom he lives, a body among other bodies.  However, his defeats and exclusions do not wholly silence David Lurie, or extinguish his desire, but redirect that desire and reshape that voice. Desire becomes love and speaking becomes a musical keening, or perhaps a canine howl. 

            We get at what happens to Lurie in three stages. First, we remind ourselves of ideas about knowledge and identity that have shaped the Western tradition.  Having done that we will sketch Lurie’s path, from a beginning in which he thinks he knows exactly what is going on in his world, through a series of disastrous arguments, the loss of which drive him out of the world of humans and into the putatively lower world of animals. It is not the lost arguments exclusively, of course, that drive Lurie toward the abject, devalued world of animals. His own unprincipled passions, the home invasion and rape, the times, with their shifting power vectors and political displacements, contribute to dispossessing David Lurie of the world he once occupied. But the lost arguments matter because they give voice to Lurie’s understanding of his own actions, the rape and the changing historical scene. The arguments chronicle in a precise way exactly how and why Lurie comes to misunderstand his world, and they provide benchmarks for the stages of his dispossession. Conversely, we can argue that none of these events, the arguments or his actions, or what he suffers, simply cause his devolution into the world of the animals. Despite everything that world is always already there, fully formed, and it is just barely conceivable that Lurie could have found it without external provocation.[6] Third, we will visit Lurie in that world and see what truths he learns from his sojourn there.


Part One: The Platonic/Cartesian Background

            In the Republic Socrates likens the human situation to that of people imprisoned in a deep cave.  We are chained so that all we see are images cast on a wall in front of us. But what we “know” in this way lacks accuracy and, as a set of mere images, lacks proper being (Republic 514C-515B).  Socrates suggests that what we know and what is can be deployed along a “divided” line, in which the lower segment represents knowledge based on shadows and reflections, and which is farthest from the light of the Sun of true Being.  “One subsection of the visible consists of images. And by images I mean, first, shadows, then reflections in water and in all close-packed, smooth and shiny materials” (Republic 509e). Just above it on the line are visible things: “In the other subsection of the visible, put the originals of these images, the animals around us, the plants and the whole class of manufactured things” (Republic 510a). Such images are mere copies of what is real (Republic 514 a- 517a).

In Phaedo, Socrates tells us that people think of the body as a prison, from which the soul escapes at death (Phaedo 7b). “Now the doctrine that is taught in secret about this matter, (is) that we men are in a kind of prison, and must not set ourselves free or run away”. “The soul is invisible” (Phaedo 80D), “it goes away into that which is like itself, into the invisible, divine, immortal and wise” (Phaedo 81A).

But, souls that fall prey to the body’s passions return to earth,
or cannot leave it when the body dies:  we must believe that the
corporeal is burdensome and heavy and earthly and visible. And such a soul, …
interpenetrated with the corporeal … is weighed down by this and is dragged
back into the visible world, and so, it flits about the monuments and the tombs, where shadowy shapes of souls are seen (Phaedo 81 C, D).

Souls “who have indulged in gluttony and violence and drunkenness are likely to pass into the bodies of asses and other beasts of that sort.  And those who have chosen injustice and tyranny and robbery pass into the bodies of wolves and hawks and kites” (Phaedo 81E).  The souls that are most attached to their bodies becomes predators like wolves or ruminants—asses, goats and sheep. Souls return to earth in animals because they took the senses literally and followed the bodily passions that such experience provoked. There is an indissociable connection between being an animal and being trapped in the senses and the passions they provoke. [7]

Descartes wants to pull down the edifice of inherited belief and find a foundation for certainty. He knows that beliefs he held when he was younger are not true. The only way to protect himself from self-deception is to subject all his beliefs to doubt.  We are all in the same position with respect to beliefs based on bodily experience. We cannot be certain that the images that our bodies provide are the way the world is, or dream-generated fantasies. Only reason, which can exist without its body, can know the truth about how beings are.

            Descartes believes that animals are biological automata that lack what makes humans, human. They cannot think because they cannot use language properly. By “think” Descartes means reasoning, that is, making and testing hypotheses. Animals are like clocks that tell the right time but that cannot “know” that they are doing so.  They have no internal conscious states. There is no inner way that it is to be a dog.  Animals are machines that process and act on sense impressions and the passions they provoke, much like Plato’s wolves and asses.[8]

Plato and Descartes believed that the world of animals is that of the senses and the passions, and therefore of appearances, not the world of reasoning and true being, which, in the Western tradition, often becomes, as Jane Taylor attests, a world of Leibnizian monads, “each one a living consciousness separated totally from every other living consciousness” (25).This is the world in which Lurie ends up living. And, rather than finding nothing but passion and lower levels of knowing, Lurie finds there a rediscovered way of being and knowing that might be deeper and morally finer than the “higher” world of reason. But how does he get to this world, and what does he find when he gets there?


Part Two: Lurie’s Dispossessions

The First Dispossession: Lurie Loses His Place in the City

`           David Lurie begins the novel as a scholar of the British Romantic poets, in particular Wordsworth and Byron. Wordsworth is represented as Plato’s spiritual ally. We find Lurie teaching Wordsworth’s The Prelude the day after he first sleeps with Melanie. Wordsworth laments that he is arriving at Mont Blanc, which cannot live up to the idea of Mont Blanc, a better and more perfect thing than the actual Mont Blanc (D 21).

                                    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.

Lurie teaches that Wordsworth believes in a higher and better world of Ideas and that art, especially poetry, makes such perfect things present. “The great archetypes of the mind, pure Ideas, find themselves usurped by mere sense images” (D 22); and we will never find these ideas unless we “climb in the wake of the poets” (D 23) with an “eye half turned toward the great archetypes of the imagination we carry within us”. This attitude extends to how Lurie sees his attraction to Melanie, allying Lurie with Wordsworth and, indirectly with Plato. When we love someone we want to get beyond his or her physical appearance: “do you truly wish to see the beloved in the cold clarity of the visual apparatus? It may be in your best interest to throw a veil over the gaze, so as to keep her alive in her archetypal, goddesslike form” (D 22).  Wordsworth seeking the perfect archetype of the mountain, Lurie seeking a perfect archetypal beauty that does not belong to those who bear it: both attest to the reality of a realm of pure ideas, in which the platonic soul and/or Cartesian cogito can know pure archetypes.

            Lurie is not, however, a pure Platonist because he is also a sensualist who believes in the power of the imagination. He teaches that, however appealing pure ideas might be, “… we cannot live our daily lives in a realm of pure ideas, cocooned from sense-experience. The question is not, How can we keep the imagination pure, protected from the onslaughts of reality? The question has to be, Can we find a way for the two to coexist?” (D 22).

Lurie argues that Wordsworth means, in line 599 of The Prelude, to strike such a balance between ideal and actual by privileging the “sense image”, which is halfway between “the pure idea, wreathed in clouds” and “the visual image burned on the retina” (D 22). But even this “sense-image” appears to privilege the Platonic idea: these images are to be “…kept as fleeting as possible, as a means toward stirring or activating the idea that lies buried more deeply…” (D 22), because as “sense-organs reach the limit of their powers, their light begins to go out”. And at the moment such a limit is reached, “…that light leaps up one last time, giving us a glimpse of the invisible”. What matters to Lurie, Wordsworth, Plato and Descartes is the invisible, the ideal, which Plato and Descartes both associate with the soul, which animals can never have.


The Double Expulsion

            Lurie’s journey to the edges of knowing and being is not something he either wills or expects. He begins the novel in a state of self-deception, filled with epistemological and ontological hubris. He is a man who thinks he knows, the sort whom Plato used as Socrates’ foil.[9] Lurie’s downfall begins when he is excluded from the urban environment, in which he occupies a position of power as professor of Communications, because he sees the world differently from everyone around him. His epistemological obtuseness leads to ontological exile, that is, to a radical change of state.

The Urban Exclusion Phase One: Lurie is Driven from the City into the Country

            The first hint we get that there is something wrong in Lurie’s world is the first “argument” he loses, with his weekly “escort”, Soraya. He believes that his assignations with this woman have “solved the problem of sex”. It becomes clear how wrong he is about “Soraya” when he sees her in public with her children, and imagines himself with her as a couple. He assumes that he has seen into the depths of their relationship, that he knows how Soraya sees him (D 2).

Because he takes pleasure in her, because his pleasure is unfailing, an affection has grown up in him for her.  To some degree, he believes, this affection is reciprocated… they have been lucky, the two of them: he to have found her, she to have found him (D 2). 

 He becomes, fleetingly, “father: foster-father, step-father, shadow-father”(D  6).

            But Lurie feels Soraya transforming herself “into just another woman and him into just another client” (D 7). He does not understand that he was always “just another client”.  Lurie has crafted an idealized Soraya in an idealized relationship. This becomes clear when he calls her at home. Soraya reacts angrily: “ ‘I don’t know who you are’, she says. ‘You are harassing me in my own house. I demand you will never phone me here again, never’” (D 9-10).

Lurie missed what was going on – he did not know something he could have known. Soraya denies that she even knows who Lurie is. Since she was using a false name, he has no idea who she is and conversely, she has no idea who he is. Whatever she “knew” about him was circumscribed by the client-prostitute relationship in which neither party is bound to tell truth.

This rebuff to his sense of knowing what goes on has little effect. He moves quickly to a sordid liaison with a departmental secretary and then, as quickly, to the disastrous “affair” with Melanie Isaacs.

The second argument that Lurie loses in the city is with his ex-wife, Rosalind. He has dinner with her after Melanie Isaacs brings harassment charges. Lurie’s template for interpreting the affair is radically different from Rosalind’s. She tells him that he is “too old to be meddling with other people’s children.” He “should have known”; what he did was “stupid” and “disgraceful” ” (D 45), and he must “expect no sympathy,  . . .  ,no mercy, in this day and age”(D 44). He has done something indefensible, “meddling” with “children” when he is himself a parent. Rosalind assures him that no one will take his side.

            Lurie tries to change the “language game” from child molestation to the erotic.[10] He tells Rosalind: “‘You haven’t asked whether I love her. Aren’t you supposed to ask that as well?’” Rosalind responds with deflating irony. “ ‘Very well. Are you in love with this young woman who is dragging your name through the mud?’” (D 45). Rosalind never considers the possibility that love had anything to do with the matter, just as Soraya never thought there was any affection between Lurie and her. Lurie’s attempt to idealize the relationship, which would lift it out of the slough of “meddling with other people’s children,” falls on deaf ears.

The third and most important argument Lurie loses in the city is the meeting with the University’s Committee of Inquiry.[11] Again, the problem hinges on a disjunction between the way he wants to talk about the event and the way they do. The Committee is interested in whether he accepts their membership. Lurie wants to raise what he calls a “philosophical objection” to the Committee’s right to call him to task. The Committee chair says that this cannot be done because the Committee is required to address only the “legal sense” of the events under discussion (D 47). Somewhat inconsistently, Mathabane, the chair, then adds that this is an “inquiry” rather than a “trial,” which means it is more therapeutic than legal.

            Lurie, following his lengthening list of misunderstandings, promptly pleads guilty to both charges, as if it were a trial. But since it is an inquiry, an attempt to find out the truth, not decide guilt or innocence, the Committee is not satisfied with Lurie’s plea. They want him to do something different, namely to “state his position” (D 49). His only position is that he is guilty, which requires no further statement. But the Committee is not satisfied because, to put the matter crudely, Lurie is speaking the wrong way. They want to know: “Guilty of what?”

            Lurie’s answer, that he is guilty of everything that Melanie’s charges, is exactly what they do not want to hear. He is warned that his approach, which seems to the Committee like “talking in circles,” is “not prudent” but “quixotic.” He is not playing the correct language game. Even if the chair of the Committee stated that the inquiry was strictly about legal matters, and Lurie has stuck to strictly legal responses, the Committee wants something more, and the more they want comes clear when one of the female Committee members asks “‘Would you be prepared to undergo counselling?’” (D  49).  For Lurie, counseling “belongs to another world, to another universe of discourse”(D  58). The disjunction arises because the Committee understands the proceedings, but also Lurie’s inner life, differently than Lurie does. Even though the chair claims that what goes on in Lurie’s “soul” “‘is dark to us ‘” (D 58) and that they do not want repentance but a public statement that expresses repentance, the suggestion about counseling belies this claim. The Committee sees Lurie’s inner self, his “soul,” as a territory open to inspection and correction. In calling for an intervention into his soul they are implying that his motive—what he calls Eros—was not an autonomous force but some version of mental unfitness. They reject the idea that souls can be visited by anything but their own urges and delusions, and argue, in effect, that references to Eros are purely psychological and political rather than indications of a form of possession.

They reject the idea that there is anything transcendent in the human soul, anything not subject to therapeutic intervention. Against this “idea of the world” Lurie is defending two ideas: first the primacy and irreducibility of the invisible soul, and second the legitimacy of the invisible motive force, Eros—the legacies of his Romantic mentors, Wordsworth and Byron.[12] The nub of his argument is that the invisible Eros, Eros as metaphysical, not biological, force, can move the invisible soul. But Eros has no currency in the paradigm used by the Committee, just as what Lurie considers a religious category, repentance, should, in his opinion, have no currency in the supposedly purely secular, legal guidelines under which the Committee should operate.

The Committee can reject the language game in which his confession is couched just as they are implicitly rejecting the “language game” of Romantic poetry in which such figures as Eros are considered real, as Rosalind rejected the language game of love, and Soraya that of affection. The Committee can impose its logically mixed, even inconsistent language game on Lurie. They can reject “philosophical objections” in favor of purely legal procedural standards.  They can call for quasi-religious “repentance,” and public statements accepting moral blame. They can require therapeutic intervention because their templates for discourse, no matter how internally inconsistent, are currently hegemonic.  Lurie’s are “quixotic” and “subtly mocking” because the Committee says they are. [13]

Lurie loses this third argument, and his job. He also loses his place in the city. Ironically the Professor of Communications has been read out of the University because of a profound breakdown in communications between him and his colleagues.


The Second Exclusion: Lurie is Driven Off the Farm

This breakdown seems to have followed Lurie into the country, where he and his daughter immediately clash over the proper language to discuss his visit, and argue about the meaning of his firing. Lurie acts as if his appearance at the farm is voluntary, part of a  “long ramble.” Lucy thinks she knows more about his status than he does, and refers to the farm as a “refuge.” But Lurie contests her description because if he is a refugee his status is reduced. The farm is not a refuge. He says that he is not (D 66) “a fugitive.”[14] Lucy counters by saying that Rosalind told her that he had been let go under adverse circumstances. He says that he brought it on himself—he sealed his own fate because he would not accept what he describes as “Re-education. Reformation of character. The code word was counselling” (D 66). He associates such a proposal with “Mao’s China. Recantation, self-criticism, public apology” (D 66). He rejects this because it belittles his claims about Eros and reduces his invisible inner self to a therapeutic site that needs correction. Such a redescription makes the invisible completely visible, something Lurie consistently resists. As Poyner writes, “He refused to accept the university’s vesion of the truth”(68). And if he was fired for defending a principle, then he left voluntarily, and is not a refugee.

He summarizes this position: “ 'These are puritanical times. Private life is public business. Prurience is respectable, prurience and sentiment. They wanted a spectacle: breast-beating, remorse, tears if possible. A TV show, in fact. I wouldn’t oblige’” (D 66). In these times, the soul is turned inside out. What was once invisible is now made visible, becomes a spectacle and a “show,” inauthentic in its visibility.

Lucy tells him “You shouldn’t be so unbending, David. It isn’t heroic…” (D 66). She, too, is rejecting his self-characterization. He is not being a hero; he is not the protagonist in a battle between freedom and repression. He is just being rigid. Once more his “universe of discourse” is rejected in favor of a psychological interpretive scheme. Lurie loses this argument because Lucy does not accept his definition of who he is and of what happened to him. She might or might not agree with the Committee’s description of the world, but she definitely does not agree with his.

After this initial argument Lurie begins to live up to his daughter’s characterization. He “devolves” from the role of citizen/professional to family member and aging parent, a visitor/refugee on Lucy’s smallholding, and things seem to settle down. But life does not remain stable for long. There is the attack, the rape, Lurie’s humiliating helplessness and injuries, the murder of the dogs, and Lurie’s position begins to erode. The change of status expresses itself in a second series of lost arguments with his daughter. These arguments occur as a series of clashes through the second half of the novel. I present them one after the other, without reference to other events that occur between the clashes, to give the reader a sense of where these arguments are leading and also to highlight the fact that they have certain themes, such as what Lurie and Lucy respectively know, and the role of ideas in both Lurie’s and Lucy’s decisions about what shall be considered real.

These arguments follow a pattern. Lucy begins to forge her own version of what happened, and what she and Lurie respectively know about it, that is sharply at odds with Lurie’s views on both issues. Lurie and his daughter grow as far apart in their respective conceptual schemes as Lurie and the Committee, or Lurie and Soraya, or Lurie and Rosalind.  In the series of arguments with Lucy the issue seems once again to be one of knowledge. Lurie and Lucy have wildly different understandings of what happened.[15]

            Lucy accuses Lurie of either not knowing, or not understanding what is going on, even of not being on the scene of events at which he knows he was present. Lurie persists in telling his daughter to be “sensible,” and offers a series of “explanations” that involve Lucy being driven to act by a variety of what she contemptuously dismisses as “ideas”: vengeance, history, guilt. He also advances the further “idea,” or rational principle, that she is not acting with honor, another idea to which Lucy does not respond.  If the arguments with the Committee were about which language game to employ, the arguments with Lucy are about what we can know and about what is real, which also amounts to assigning different terms to what appears to be the same set of events. Lurie tries to show that he does understand by advancing a series of ideas about what Lucy is doing and should do, while Lucy keeps arguing that she has no ideas, only the brute facts of her current life. Lurie is finally asked to leave, only to find, among the animals, a place where the arguments cease and both a new language and a new sense of what is real emerge.

The first argument breaks out when Lucy and Lurie are preparing to speak to the police. Lucy tells him that there will be two stories—hers and his. She wants to control her narrative, intends not to tell the police that she was raped. Just as Rosalind and the Committee invalidated Lurie’s story of his relationship with Melanie Isaacs, so Lucy invalidates whatever story Lurie was planning to tell about her rape. “You tell what happened to you, I tell what happened to me.” Lurie disagrees: “ ‘You’re making a mistake’”. Lucy does not offer a counter-argument but says, “’No I’m not’” (D 99).  Lurie returns to the subject the next day.  “’Lucy, my dearest, why don’t you want to tell? It was a crime…. You are an innocent party’ D 111).  Lurie is invoking “ideas” such as “innocence” and  “crime.” But Lucy is a realist who denies that there is “another world,” that invisible realm of ideas that made Wordsworth disappointed at his view of Mt. Blanc, or that drove Plato’s freed prisoner up out of the cave into the sun. Lucy abjures the notion that ideas drive action, that there are invisible principles that move people to do things. For Lucy, there seem to be no “shoulds”, but only “ises”, to coin a barbarous term.  Linda Seidel captures this:” Rejecting abstractions  as irrelevant to her life, Lucy appears to embody the immanent, . . . , like some well-tested female Candide, all theoretical optimism long spent”(19).

            Lurie also assumes that Lucy is not telling because she feels ashamed of what happened. “Shame” is another “idea.” She tells him the real reason for her silence. She says that “’as far as I am concerned, what happened to me is a purely private matter.  In another time, in another place, it might be held to be a public matter. But in this place, at this time, it is not. It is my business, mine alone’” (D 112). This response can be read as a variant on Lucy’s earlier rejection of ideas as explanatory entities. In the world she inhabits, public rules are inoperative. They are ideas. What matters and what works are private accommodations to particular circumstances.

When Lucy says that she is going back to the farm, Lurie tells his daughter to “be sensible,” that going back is too dangerous, not a “good idea” (D 105). She responds that going back is not an idea at all, but what she is about to do. “’I’m not going back for the sake of an idea’” (D 105). Not only does Lurie lack “sense,” he is accused of being an out-of-touch idealist, “quixotic”: there is no guiding principle in Lucy’s return. She is “just going back”.

Lurie responds that Lucy cannot deceive herself into thinking that keeping the rape secret will protect her. “ ‘Vengeance is like a fire. The more it devours, the hungrier it get’” (D 112). But Lucy rejects the idea that the rapists are driven by an abstraction,  “vengeance.” What moves the rapists is an economy of assault followed by protection that has nothing to do with vengeance. Lurie counters with another possible explanation, another hypothesis: if Lucy is not trying to buy safety through meekness, she must be paying off an imagined debt. “‘Do you hope you can expiate the crimes of the past by suffering in the present’” (D 112)? Again Lucy rebuffs him. She rejects “guilt” and “salvation” as explanatory concepts. These, like vengeance, are “abstractions”, and abstractions are do not describe Lucy’s acts. “ ‘I don’t act in terms of abstraction’” (D  112).  As Jolly states: “But notice that Lucy has never subscribed to metaphysical moral values: her forte is refusing her father’s habit of seeing the world through metaphysical glasses” (Jolly 164).  She is not seeking salvation; she does not want to expiate past crimes with her silence.

Later, Lucy offers a fuller explanation.

‘But isn’t there another way of looking at it, David? What if… what if that is the price one has to pay for staying on? Perhaps that is how they look at

it; perhaps that is how I should look at it too. They see me as owing something. They see themselves as debt collectors, tax collectors.  Why

            should I be allowed to live here without paying? Perhaps that is what they

            tell themselves’ (D 158).

Lurie’s response is succinct. “‘ Really, Lucy, from beginning to end I fail to understand’” (D 133). Agreeing with this, Lucy tells him: “‘ There are things you just don’t understand…. To begin with, you don’t understand what happened to me that day . . . You think you understand, but finally you don’t. Because you can’t’” (D 157: italics mine). This echoes something Bev Shaw told him earlier. He tells Bev he knows what Lucy was going through because “ ‘I was there’”. Bev answers: “‘But you weren’t there, David.  She told me. You weren’t’” (D 140).

            Lurie is baffled. The question is, what does “there” mean? For Lurie being “there” meant he was in the home when the rape took place. “Being there” meant being present. For Lucy, however, being “there” means experiencing, feeling and understanding what it is to be attacked by three men who “ ‘do rape’” (D 158), and who have “marked” her, as a dog might mark its territory. Lurie has ideas about what happened. Lucy has immediate experience, which she wants to keep private, and to which she thinks ideas do not apply.            

            Exasperated by his inability to get through to her, Lurie writes a letter that tells Lucy that she wants to “humble (her)self before history”(D160), but that this is the “wrong” road and that if she continues she will be “strip(ped) of all honour”. Lurie once more applies ideas to the situation. Perhaps he is referring to apartheid and arguing that Lucy mistakenly feels that she owes her rapists something because of past injustices. But Lucy never suggested such a thing, and nothing in her remarks about tax collecting indicate such a stance. As to honor, she has never mentioned “honor”, another abstraction like “principle” or “history”.   These terms may be, as Rosalind suggested in an earlier conversation, “too abstruse”. They do not seem to have anything to do with Lucy’s decisions, and Lurie seems to get things wrong again.

            Lucy’s response makes this clear. She writes: “You have not been listening to me. I am not the person you know” (D 160). She is “a dead person,” who does not have the luxury of entertaining ideas and who has made a deal to survive. She offers Petrus an “alliance”, whereby Lucy will give him her land in return for his protection. She will “creep in under his wing” as a wife; he will be father to Lucy’s child. Lurie thinks the proposal is “preposterous,” a form of “blackmail” by whose terms Lucy is allowed to stay in her house unmolested in return for giving up her farm and her dreams of an independent rural life. But Lucy thinks that Lurie just does not get it.  “ ‘I don’t believe you get the point, David’”(D 203). She knows the situation is humiliating but she takes the humiliation differently and sees the end of her hopes as a possible starting point. “ ‘Perhaps that is what I must learn to accept. To start at ground level.  With nothing. No cards, no weapons, no property, no rights, no dignity…. Like a dog’” (D 205).

 Lurie does not grasp this, which becomes clear in the final argument, when Lurie attacks Pollux with the bulldog and Lucy comes to the boy’s defense. It is Lurie and the animal against the emerging dominant culture. Lurie must leave. Once more his reasoning was not acceptable, and he leaves a second world, the one in which he hoped to find a refuge. Lucy is “prepared to do anything, make any sacrifice, for the sake of peace,” and the argumentative David is part of what she is prepared to sacrifice (D  208).As this final series of arguments testifies, Disgrace can be read as a novel n which, as Rushdie somewhat testily observed, no one understands anything about any one else in the novel (Wright, 98).

            Ironically, as often as Lucy rails against Lurie for being a man of ideas, out of touch and lacking sense, it is finally Lurie who becomes one with “Africa,” with the land, in the person of its rejected, exploited and dying animals.  Becoming a scapegoat for a second time, he is exiled from the realm of culture and full being and relegated to the place he has always already belonged: the world of animals against which Plato and Descartes have warned us.[16]


Lurie and the Animals

            The world of animals has been lurking at the edges of this story since its beginning, when Lurie compares himself to a serpent in his sexual episodes with Soraya, and as a “worm,” “fox” and “snake” in his affair with Melanie Isaacs.  Disgrace is filled with more than one hundred figurative and literal animal references—including more than sixty references to dogs—but it is the literal meetings with animals that provide Lurie a new “home” on the margins of the world.[17]

            His entrance to that world properly begins before he is cast out of his daughter’s house. It is almost as if this world is waiting for him, waiting to take him in, as if this world is waiting patiently for Lurie to lose all his arguments, all his other homes, so that he can finally join this one. When he and Lucy go to town he meets Bev Shaw, who, with her husband, runs the Animal Welfare League clinic, without little or no government assistance. Lurie is put off by Bev’s lack of attention to her appearance, by how tastelessly her house is furnished, and by her back yard, where he will eventually spend so much of his life. The clinic with its odors of urine and mange and cleaning fluid puts him off (D  72). Lucy asks him what he thought of Bev and her clinic. Lurie is impressed but has reservations. “‘I don’t want to be rude. It’s a subculture of its own’”.

I’m sorry, my child, I just find it hard to whip up an interest in the subject. … to me animal welfare people are a bit like Christians of a certain kind. Everyone is so cheerful and well-intentioned and after a while you wish to go off and do some raping and pillaging. Or to kick a cat.  (D 73)

Lurie does not take people like Bev seriously. They are earnest do-gooders whose focus on animal welfare is admirable but unimportant, something a certain kind of (failed) person would spend time on. “ He has nothing against … animal lovers…. The world would no doubt be a worse place without them” (D  72).

            Lucy understands this perfectly. She says, “‘You think I ought to involve myself in more important things…. I ought to be doing something better with my life’”. Lucy knows that Lurie believes in a “higher life”, which is better than the life she and Bev are leading. Such a life would include things like “‘painting still lives or teaching (one)self Russian’”(D  74). Lucy counters: “…there is no higher life. This is the only life there is. Which we share with animals…. That’s the example I try to follow. To share some of our human privilege with the beasts”.  Lurie agrees with her, but makes some significant exceptions. “I agree, this is the only life there is. As for animals, by all means let us be kind to them. But let us not lose perspective. We are of a different order of creation from the animals. Not higher, necessarily, just different” (D 74).

            Lurie demonstrates a certain inconsistency. He agrees with Lucy that “this is the only life there is”. Still, Lurie argues that animals and humans are of different “orders of creation,” which presupposes hierarchy of lower and higher lives, echoing his earlier Platonizing view of the world.

      Despite his views, Lurie volunteers at the clinic. Lurie evinces skepticism. “ ‘It sounds suspiciously like community service. It sounds like someone trying to make reparation for past misdeeds’” (D 77). Lurie does not want to do anything that hints that he has a moral obligation to animals, or that he has done something wrong for which he must compensate.[18] There is no justice involved, only generosity. He agrees to help “‘only as long as I do not have to become a better person’”(D 77).

            Before he begins, Lurie has an interaction with Lucy’s dogs that hints of what is to come. The younger ones recognize him; he has become part of their world. But the old abandoned bulldog, Katy, pays no attention (D 62). She, like Lurie, has found a refuge with Lucy.  Lurie crawls into the pen with her, “stretches out beside her on the bare concrete” under the blue sky, and “His limbs relax”. He falls asleep next to the abandoned dog. His daughter finds him and asks whether he is making friends. Lurie says this is not easy: “‘Poor old Katy, she’s in mourning’” (D 78). The nap is an incipient connection in which Lurie and the animal share a space of being, a single bodily location. When Lucy said that she did not believe in higher things and that we share this single life with the animals she might have had something like this in mind, and this is what Lurie rejected in words, even though he finds himself doing it, in practice. He has, perhaps, despite his protestations —we are of a different order of creation—begun to accept Lucy’s egalitarian metaphysic, at least in respect to how he lives in his body.

However, Lurie’s view of the world differs from his daughter’s in unexpected ways that will have a bearing on his future relationships with animals. He mentions having a soul, and Lucy says “‘I’m not sure that I have a soul. I wouldn’t know a soul if I saw one’”. Lurie, who agrees that there are no “higher things,” puzzlingly tells her that she is wrong, that “ ‘You are a soul. We are all souls. We are souls before we are born’” (D  79). Even in a world in which there are no higher things, there are still “souls” which pre-exist their appearance in bodies. He appears to be a dualist but we are not sure which sort, especially since he later tells Mr. Isaacs that he does not believe in God (D 171).

            We are also not sure what he means when he says “We are all souls”. Does he mean all humans are souls, or is the mourning Katy, for example, included?  If the latter is true then Lurie has changed his metaphysics. Perhaps he is not thinking about consistency, or is still in process of working things out. As Ian Hacking reminds us in his review of Coetzee’s work, things aren’t always consistent when one is working out one’s views.  “I imagine that Coetzee feels the force of almost all the ideas and emotions that his characters express. He is working and living at the edge of our moral  possibilities about animals. Much is fluid, changing, being created. One positively ought to hold incompatible opinions as one works and lives one’s way through to their resolution”(24).

            When Lurie goes to the clinic the first thing he does is help Bev hold down a dog with an abscessed tooth. She has no anesthetics or antibiotics. She is not a veterinarian and can only relieve what pain she can, with her small resources and her thoughts. She instructs Lurie, “‘Think comforting thoughts, think strong thoughts. They can smell what you are thinking’”. Lurie thinks this last idea is ridiculous but Bev tells him that he is “‘a good presence. I sense that you like animals’” (D 81). Bev lives in and by her body, in a world in which thoughts have an odor, where one’s bodily presence matters, where beings feel each other, in touch and smell and sound. She inhabits her body as if she is not of a different order of creation than the animals whose bodies she treats. Lurie has already foreshadowed this embodied metaphysic in his nap with Katy, and might, whether he knows it or not, be enacting it as he holds the terrified dog. Lurie might be moving into a different world, unrelated to the world of Platonic or Wordsworthian ideals, or to the world of argument in which his ideas were consistently rejected.

            Right after the dog with the abscessed tooth, a woman brings in a grand old goat that has been savaged by dogs. His scrotum is badly infected. The wound has been left too long and there is nothing Bev can do to save him. But as she treats the goat, Bev does something extraordinary:

She kneels down again beside the goat, nuzzles his throat, stroking the throat upward with her own hair. The goat trembles but is still…. She is whispering. ‘What do you say, my friend? What do you say? Is it enough?’ The goat stands stock still as if hypnotized. Bev continues to stroke him with her head. (D  83)

Bev tells the woman she can euthanize the animal. “‘He will let me do that for him.’” And she adds, “ ‘I will help him through, that’s all’”(D 83).  The woman does not want this; the local people have their own way of slaughtering animals. Bev describes him in human terms: “ ‘What a pity! Such a good old fellow, so brave and straight and confident!’” Bev sees the goat as a subject, an agent who has a right to control his fate, and she “consulted” with him by stroking his hair with hers and by speaking with him.

            Lurie finds himself trying to comfort Bev by offering a theory, one made up or realized on the spot, about what goats do and do not know. This is a Goat Epistemology proposed as consolation and also perhaps a disquisition on the goat soul. He says:

“Perhaps he understands more than you guess. Perhaps he has already been through it. Born with foreknowledge, so to speak. This is Africa, after all. There have been goats here since the beginning of time. They don’t have to be told what steel is for, and fire. They know how death comes to a goat.”  (D 83-84)

What is Lurie saying here? Is he claiming that goats have a bodily version of Platonic innate knowledge, an embodied Form of the Goat, always already imbedded in their consciousness, so that they know when death approaches as the slave boy in Meno knows the Pythagorean formula once he is reminded of it in the right way? Lurie is not advancing a biological theory about genetic coding, but says that goats know how they are going to die and also therefore know what it means to be a goat, to have a goat body and goat consciousness living in a goat world controlled by humans.  

            Bev half believes him but disagrees about one point. Even if the goat knew that he was to die she does not think knowing is sufficient. For Bev, dying is an essentially social act. Rejecting Heidegger’s characterization of death, in Being and Time,  as Dasein’s “ownmost non-relational possibility” (294). Bev asserts “ ‘I don’t think we are ready to die, any of us, without being escorted’” (D  84).[19]

            Lurie begins to understand what Bev is doing.  Bev cannot be a healer because she has neither the skill nor the means. Bev, like St. Hubert, offers a last refuge to the hunted and harried. “Beverly Shaw, not a veterinarian but a priestess, full of New Age mumbo jumbo trying, absurdly, to lighten the load of Africa’s suffering beasts” (D 84). There is something “absurd” about Bev’s trying to give these animals their own deaths. But Lurie has just contributed to “New Age mumbo jumbo” with his theory about goat foreknowledge. Perhaps this could be read in the register of the darkly comic, but Lurie is taking part in this “absurd” activity of serving as dog psychopomp and he might be learning something in the process. Despite his characterization of what Bev does, he finds himself doing it too, and becoming exactly what he once mocked. Existing in this paradox marks Lurie’s journey from outsider to insider.

The next stage in Lurie’s education comes when he watches as the dogs in Bev’s clinic eat.  Despite their hunger and their numbers, they share access to the food without snarling and biting. “‘They are very egalitarian, aren’t they?’” Lurie applies, almost automatically, an abstract ethical concept to the dogs’ behavior. A Dog Theory of Justice is added to the Goat Theory of Knowledge. [20]

Their problem, says Bev, is not a lack of morals but that there are too many of them. Dogs do not understand, and as Bev says we cannot tell them, that there are too many dogs, “‘by our standards’”. If dogs had their way they would do exactly as we have done – “‘They would just multiply and multiply, until they fill the earth.’”(D 85). As he listens Lurie allows a dog to smell his face. He enters the dog’s world on a bodily level, squatting by the cage, letting the dogs touch him, feeling them, falling for and into the world in which Bev Shaw lives.

The attack sharpens Lurie’s new awareness about animals. First, Lurie reacts to the execution of the boarded dogs as if the animals were humans who had been murdered. Lurie has been “bled dry” by the attack, and is “without hopes, without desires, indifferent to the future,” like “an old man, tired to the bone” (D 107). Yet he still cares for dogs by burying them (D 110) as if they warranted an almost-human burial.

            Second, Lucy goes to the dogs and holds them, calling them “’My darlings, my darlings’” as if they were human lovers, or her children. Although they will disagree about everything else, Lucy and Lurie are coming closer on the question of what animals mean. Here, despite earlier reservations, Lurie seems to know that the dogs matter in a way they did not matter before.

            Lurie now begins to notice animals in a new way. Petrus is planning a party to celebrate the completion of his house, and purchases two sheep to be slaughtered for the event. He stakes them out in the sun with no grass and no water. Lurie moves them to a better location. When Petrus moves the sheep back Lurie ponders how he can help them. He has no way to take care of sheep. He is a refugee himself living on a half-ruined farm. Even if he bought them, Petrus would replace them with others. Lurie understands that he cannot be an animal savior because animals are, to use Hardy’s phrase from Jude the Obscure, too menny” (D 146).

            This incident takes him a step closer to a new relationship with animals. Even Lucy argues that there is nothing to be done about the sheep. She and Lurie are, surprisingly, on the way to exchanging positions. This is Africa, after all, says Lucy, and the country besides. This is how people do things. Even though he tells his daughter, “’I haven’t changed my ideas’” in the sense that he “‘still do(es)n’t believe that animals have properly individual lives.’”(D 126), at the same time “‘in this case I am disturbed. I can’t say why’”. In ways he does not understand, “a bond seems to have come into existence between himself and the two Persians” that makes him regard their treatment as “indifference, hardheartedness”. He purports not to feel emotions for the sheep: “The bond is not one of affection”. And, denying that individual animals matter, he says “It is not even a bond with these two in particular, whom he could not pick out from a whole mob in a field” (D 126).

However much he denies animal individuality, and claims no affection for these particular animals, he approaches the doomed animals and tries to connect with them. He says that he is “looking for a sign”— of recognition? [21] Of shared being?  Attridge concurs: the sheep exert what can only be called an ontological pull: “The powerful but baffling claim made by the sheep on him is, it seems, far from either the emotional pull experienced by the animal lover or the ethical demand acknowledge by the upholder of animal rights” (108).  And when he does not get that sign—the animals shy away—he remembers Bev Shaw with the goat, “nuzzling (him), stroking him, comforting him, entering into his life” (D 126:italics mine).[22] Even though he is not able to pick out the sheep in a field, and even though they offer no sign, they still, like the old goat, possess “souls,” individual identities.

Lurie develops a Sheep Theory of the Soul, to go with his Goat Theory of

Knowledge: “Sheep do not own themselves, do not own their lives. They exist to be used, every last ounce of them, their flesh to be eaten, their bones to be crunched and fed to poultry” (D 123). Having denied sheep value and sheep individuality, he then mentions the sheep’s “soul,” evidence that his claims about the difference between people and animals is shifting. “Nothing escapes, except perhaps the gall bladder. Descartes should have thought of that. The soul, suspended in the dark, bitter gall, hiding” (D 126). Whether Lurie means “soul” in a traditional sense, he does describe it as “suspended in the dark” and as “hiding,” as if the animal soul—and perhaps the human soul, too—were a bodily being, something between visibility and invisibility, but distinct from the body nonetheless.  Is it, like the “sense image” in his discussion of Wordsworth, a visible sign of invisible presence?

            This theme of animal individuality reasserts itself when Lurie thinks about the people who bring dogs in to be euthanized. These people want something like what the Nazis wanted in the Holocaust, a Lösung, or “solution”, a quick disappearance of the animal/person, “leaving no residue, no aftertaste”(D 142). Is this way of dealing with animals a willing not to see their individuality, as the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews was a similar refusal? And are both, equally, sins?

            It to these “excess” dogs for whom people want a “final solution” that Bev Shaw as priestess/ escort gives her attention, as if each individual dog had an importance, as if each one were a subject, had a soul. Lurie thinks that he impedes this process because he still lacks that “communion with animals” that Bev has. It is “Some trick he does not have” (D 126). 

            But he participates in the killings and the animals become more and more important. “His whole being is gripped by what happens in the theater” (D 143). Despite his claim that he does not know “whether by nature he is cruel or kind” and is, in a moral sense, “simply nothing”, the pain gets worse. He lacks what he calls “the gift of hardness,” and he finally breaks down: “The more killings he assists in, the more jittery he gets. One Sunday evening, driving home, he actually has to stop at the roadside to recover himself. Tears flow down his face that he cannot stop; his hands shake” (D 142-143). This, from the man who said “Which among them get to live, which get to die, is not . . . worth agonizing over” (D 127).

              He becomes convinced that the dogs sense/know what is about to happen. “ . . .   (T)he dogs in the yard smell what is going on inside. They flatten their ears, they droop their tails, as if they too feel the disgrace of dying”.  Once inside, none will look at the needle, “which they somehow know is going to harm them terribly” (D 143).  The dogs know. A Dog Theory of Knowledge is added to the Goat and Sheep Theories.  As when Lucy called the dead dogs “darling” and when Bev Shaw speaks softly to the goat, or to dogs about to die, Lurie is beginning to speak about the animals as if they were not on a different level of being than the humans. Each dog, each goat, knows; perhaps each, as Lurie earlier conjectured, also has foreknowledge, a sense in their embodied soul what it means to be a dog or a goat, and what that means with respect to how they will die. Each dog, perhaps, has the soul that Lurie earlier said that we all have, and that he then extended to the sheep, even though he does not believe in God and believes, with Lucy, that this world is all the world there is.[23]

            Though he is powerless to save the dogs, Lurie can attend to them after they have died. He might not have Bev’s gift for entering into the lives of animals, but he might be able to act as both psychopomp and harijan, on one hand a guide and escort, on the other, an undertaker.  He is not a dog whisperer who can live immediately with them and escort them in their final moments, but rather a dog undertaker, one who escorts them, when they are dead, to their resting place.

Lurie describes his emerging vocation. “The business of dog-killing is over for the day, the black bags are piled at the door, each with a body and a soul inside” (D 161). Each dead dog is both body and soul. He has extended his beliefs about souls to animals and moved beyond his claim that animals do not have “properly individual lives”; with these realizations Lurie has entered a new society, beyond both the city and the country—the world of ensouled animals.

This is indicated by his behavior and especially by his explanations for it.  Lurie will not leave the bodies with “the weekend’s scourings” of hospital waste. The dogs’ bodies are not waste, but bodies, and Lurie “is not prepared to inflict such dishonour upon them” (D 144). When he first left them, rigor mortis had set in, making the bodies difficult to fit into the incinerator. The hospital workers break the legs so the bags would fit into the incinerator easily and the burning would be more complete (D 144-145). Lurie shows up early Monday mornings and places the dogs on the conveyor into the furnace himself, making sure that they fit. He knows that the dogs are dead and cannot care what happens to them. As Samuelson notes, echoing Marais, “teleological plotting is thus forsaken”. (153) His ideas on animals’ souls do not extend to claims of immortality. Why does he trouble?

He does it “for himself. 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” (D 146).[24] What world is this?  We get images of death camps and genocidal massacres and mass graves—instances in which men did use shovels to beat corpses into shape for “processing”. We also get images of industrial plants that “process” chicken and steer and pig corpses, of animal control centers that “process” unwanted cats and dogs.

            It is neither accurate nor useful to push this reminder further. Lurie is not an animal advocate with a developed theory. He is the nameless old man, the “mad old man” (D 212) who brings the dogs in bags to the incinerator. He is not clear about what he is doing or even confident that it is not “daft” or “wrongheaded”. But there is some principle involved. Lurie seems to believe that it is just wrong to show such disrespect to the dead, and he does not want to live in a world where such practices go unchallenged. He has an “idea of the world,” of the whole world, in which there ought to be a rule: do not use shovels to beat corpses into convenient shapes, or, do not dishonor the corpses of the dead.            

This is where Lurie ends up— as both Tremaine and Mason argue - like a dog, and among the dogs, honoring the dogs. He begins to live, more or less, at the clinic. The yard that he described with such distaste and condescension when he first saw it has become his preferred residence: “In the bare compound behind the building he makes a nest of sorts, with a table and an old armchair from the Shaws and a beach umbrella to keep off the worst of the sun” (D 211).  This is the yard that he once described as  “ an apple tree dropping wormridden food, rampant weeds, an area fenced with galvanized-iron sheets, wooden pallets, old tyres”  (D 73).

Lurie has nothing but his gas stove and canned food, and of course his banjo. He lives on the very edge of the human world. He has become a true dog-man. Living by their cages, in his own “nest”, he has become more than a psychopomp. He feeds them and cleans out their pens. He talks with them. He is in their world, as lacking in dignity and almost as lacking in property as they are. Like a dog, he sits quietly, dozing in the heat. He has left the world of men, entered the world of dogs, and found there a new vision of the soul—temporal, embodied, unnamed—and real.[25] And, in finding this new understanding the soul, Lurie discovers that he has one too:

            Sunday has come again. He and Bev Shaw are engaged in another

            one of their sessions of Lösung. One by one he brings in the cats,

            then the dogs: the old, the blind, the halt, the crippled, the maimed,

            but also the young, the sound—all those whose term has come.

            (D  218)

            Lurie works silently alongside Bev, putting the bodies in the plastic bags. He “has learned by now, from her, to concentrate all his attention on the animal they are killing” (D 219).  Lurie’s obligation is to focus all his attention on the individual animal that is dying. He expends his emotion in paying attention to each animal as it dies.

The importance of what he does becomes clear when he goes to Cape Town and does not do his job: “From Monday onward the dogs released from life within the walls of the clinic will be tossed into the fire unmarked, unmourned. For that betrayal, will he ever be forgiven?” (D 178) Whom is he betraying?  Lurie is groping toward a new principle—that the animals he helps to kill do have individual identities, are subjects, and are therefore worthy of honor, and as deserving of post-mortem respect as any dead human, the same level of intense respect for the dead that Ian Hacking notes: “ a profound care for the dignity of the loved body after death, seems quite universal”(22). Lurie believes that every dog—and by extension every sheep, every goat—should be “marked” and “mourned” in its passing, should be escorted across the line between life and death and then honored after its death by someone like himself—a nameless, mad old psychopomp who lacks the “trick” of communing with animals while they are alive. [26] And he should do this because in his new view of things animals have exactly the same claim on being treated honorably in death as humans do because animals have souls and individual identities, thus establishing, as Rita Barnard writes,  an ethic that has “nothing whatever to do with kinship, labor, ownership, or debts – or anything else that can be made sense of in the moral economy of the colonial or postcolonial pastoral “ (40).

The most powerful evidence that animals possess a nameless and unmarked subjectivity is that, in addition to being able to suffer and to know that they suffer, they love. “Of the dogs in the holding pens, there is one he has come to feel a particular fondness for.  No visitor has shown an interest in adopting it. Its period of grace is almost over; soon it will have to submit to the needle” (D 214-15).  From this dog with its withered haunches that is wanted even less than the other dogs, “he is sensible of a generous affection streaming out toward him from the dog. Arbitrarily, unconditionally, he has been adopted; the dog would die for him, he knows” (D 215). The dog loves him.

            Sometimes Lurie lets this dog out of the pen. It plays and sleeps at his feet, although he will not name it. He even considers allowing the dog to “sing” alongside Teresa in his opera. They are, after all, equals in their sorrow: “Would he dare do that: bring a dog into the piece, allow it to loose its own lament to the heavens between the strophes of lovelorn Teresa’s?” (D 215) The dog never contributes to the opera because Lurie allows it to go under the needle. But he almost included it, included it in principle, because it had a lament as individualized and as legitimate as the human Teresa’s.

            This might be the key. This dog unconditionally loves Lurie.  It also likes music and might want to sing a lament in his opera. These are particular “personal” facts about this young crippled dog for which Lurie has developed affection.  But Lurie’s connection to the dogs is more severe and principled. As he makes sure that each dead dog is bundled up carefully and enters the flames intact, Lurie knows that he is “giving it what he no longer has difficulty in calling by its proper name: love”(D 219). In honoring the dead he is asserting that each of them, individually, had love to give, that each might or might not have liked music, and might or might not have wanted to, or been capable of, adding a lament to the opera. Lurie’s “idea of the world” includes honoring—and loving—each of these anonymous, powerless animals that were capable of suffering, loving and singing. His pledge is to all of them, and for this reason he cannot select one as more important or valuable than the rest. A man who has lived by selecting women for his private enjoyment has moved beyond all selection and become a guardian of all the dead, which excludes him from selecting any one of them to live.

But it is also true that in the last lines of the novel, if only for a moment, Lurie moves beyond his role as the one who honors all the dead equally, and appears to achieve what once he lacked: Bev’s gift for entering animal lives on an individual level. As he carries the young dog to the needle, there is no question but that he enters its life. At the same moment his identity as undertaker reasserts itself and he relinquishes this connection, becoming once more the mad old man who gives up what he loves in particular so that he can honor and love all the dead in general.

Cast out of the city, out of the country, out of all human societies, a scapegoat who never wins an argument, who lost his human name and his voice, save the part which replicates the keening of ghosts and the howling of dogs,  Lurie has “descended” to the world of the animals and ghosts and found, if not salvation, then a new way to love and,  certainly, a new way to be.

[1] The existence of such a “counter-world” is suggested in several critical sources, but differently characterized in each source. Attridge thinks of this world of Lurie and the animals as a place of grace;

Attridge “Age of Bronze”. When Attridge discusses Lurie’s principle (D  145-146) about not wanting to live in a world where people use shovels to beat corpses into shape,  he  writes that “It is this experience of finding oneself personally commanded by  inexplicable, unjustifiable, impractical commitments to an idea of the world that has room for the inconvenient … that I am calling grace”(116). Attridge then states that the political challenge , which Lurie does not take up, but which his work poses, “is to find a way to build a new just state that is not founded on the elimination of unpredictability, singularity, excess. We might call it, if it ever comes into existence, a state of grace” (118).

 Marais thinks of this alternate world as a kind of charmed Levinasian space beyond history in which the ethical can flourish outside the march of events. In “Imagination” he writes “What is required of the imagination is not simply relocation of the self from one subject position to another position that is already presupposed and defined in opposition to a position it itself has vacated. Instead, the imagination must divest itself of all subject positions and language”(80)  He then cites Coetzee himself, in “Erasmus’ Praise of Folly”: “The imagination must enable itself to occupy an uncommitted non-position, . . . , a position not already given, defined, . . .”(2) Marais then characterizes this position:”as a space in which the writer and reader encounter that which is beyond language.” He further defines this space in ”Little Enough” when, agreeing with Simon Critchley, he talks about a “double structure” in society, one level of which is “the ethical relation that transcends history, and may never become a part of history, (but which) nevertheless constantly interrupts and so mediates those contestatory relations extant in history”(173).

 Laura Wright, in her Writing “Out of All Camps” sees this counterworld as a space of  “interregnum”, borrowing the idea from an essay by Nadine Gordimer, and recycling it through its redefinition in Gramsci. South Africa, according to Wright, exists “between social orders but also between two identities, one that is known and discarded, and the other unknown and undetermined. “( 9) She also believes that for Coetzee, this interregnum is never a series of temporal events tied to a particular historical space and time, but as “conceptual , illustrative of the idea that any time two or more people can conceive of the mere possibility of disrupting the binaries that define their relationships and thereby engage reciprocally with one another, the secular limbo of the interregnum may (possibly, potentially, but certainly not probably) give way to the unknown and unknowable future”( 9 – 10).  

My characterization of the space of ghosts and animals as a “new world” privileges the idea that in entering the world of animals Lurie is opening up new possibilities and a new ethical universe, something also suggested clearly in Attridge, Marais, Barnard and Wright. At the same time, as the above citations suggest, Rita Barnard , in Apartheid and Beyond is right to suggest that this new emerging parallel world is the child of crisis: in Disgrace, “all established oppositions and boundaries seem to be under threat of collapse, . . . A crisis of definition, relationships and responsibilities lies at the heart of Disgrace” (35).


[2] This privileging of the body is articulated with a great deal more theoretical detail in The Lives of Animals and later in Elizabeth Costello. There, in two essays , “The Philosopher and the Animals” and “The Poet and the Animals”, putatively based on talks delivered by Elizabeth Costello, she sketches out a view of the world in which she rejects Cartesian dualism and the hegemony of reason and talks about “embodiedness” and the “embodied soul”, ideas to which David Lurie will glancingly allude in his own non-theoretical way in the later parts of Disgrace, as we shall soon see. (Lives of Animals, 33)


[3] See, for example, Susan Griffin’s Woman and Nature:The Roaring Inside Her and Perspectives on Embodiment.


[4] Travis Mason, in “Dog Gambit” concurs in this assessment that Lurie believes in an embodied, non-mortal soul. (4 of 12)  Tom Herron in “Dog Man”  goes even further: he says that David Lurie “is attending to the death of a fellow being who may just possess what for so long has been attributed only to human beings, one of the marks of the absolute limit between the human and the animal, an eternal living soul”

(H11. . Tremaine rejects any claims to immortality as “delusion” in “The Embodied Soul” but does assert an embodied salvation  but non-transcendent “salvation” “that can reside in no one and nothing beyond his own animal being”(609).


[5]In “Imagination” Marais also alludes to the fact that Disgrace is an anti-bildungsroman,  (76) and Seidel, in “Death and Transformation” point to the fact that Lurie, even as the novel begins, is a man who has already lost much of his status and identity, and certainly much of his power. As a white male intellectual in post-apartheid South Africa he is definitely living under revision,(under Wright’s interregnum) although at the beginning of the novel he does not seem terribly aware of this fact. 


[6] This emphasis  requires clarification. While it has become almost a commonplace, and a perfectly justifiable one, to connect Lurie’s fall and transformation to changing historical conditions and to his continuing to act in ways that fail to take those conditions into account (see for example Attridge, Barnard, Poyner, Samuelson, Graham, inter alia), in this essay I have chosen to concentrate not on the conditions but on the arguments Lurie advances in response to those conditions, as well as to the arguments with which he is countered by people who embrace different understandings of the world they share with Lurie. The Committee, Soraya, his ex-wife Rosalind, Lucy, Petrus , Bev – all disagree with him in significant ways, although all come at the disagreements from different perspectives.

This “democracy” of voices, is noted especially by Wright in her discussion of the dialogic character of the novels,  and her use of the concept of “interregnum”. Wright argues that Coetzee’s writing contests the role of what she terms “the monologic insider”, that “textual presence that has access to untested notions of the truth”(100). Barnard  sees “the times” as a period in which all relationships and definitions are under threat and being reshaped.  This indicates, as Tremaine notes,  an epistemological ambiguity, even a relativism, in Coetzee’s writing, indicated by the free indirect discourse that he uses. Nyman, citing Huggan and Watson, concurs  in “Postcolonial Dogs”(129).  If this is right then the coexistence, and contention among, many worldviews are part and parcel of the fundamental structure of the novel.


[7] It is however important to reiterate that Plato, unlike Descartes, did allow the possibility of souls living in animal bodies. Clearly, for Plato, the soul was something that could migrate from one species to another and from this we have to conclude that he did not entertain the same level of dualism as did Descartes, that is, between the human and the animal levels of being. David Lurie, when he first seeks refuge with his daughter Lucy, is much more a Platonist than a Cartesian.


[8] For a more detailed account of Descartes’ ideas about animals, and excellent arguments about why it is misguided to see Descartes as  entirely insensitive to animals and their feelings,  see “ ‘A Brute to the Brutes?’: Descartes’ Treatment of Animals” by John Cottingham  and Peter Harrison, “Descartes on Animals”.


[9] The difference between David Lurie and the typical protagonist/victim in Plato’s dialogues is that Lurie, unlike the Platonic characters, is not securely positioned within his society.


[10] I think the rubric ‘language game’(Sprachspiel), as that phase was coined and used by Ludwig Wittgenstein, in his Philosophical Investigations (#2, 7, 23, inter alia)works here because in his arguments with Soraya, Rosalind, the Committee et alia., Lurie is trying to do with language what Marais says  that Blanchot and Levinas both think that people try to do with language. In “The Possibility of Ethical Action” Marais characterizes all thinking, following Levinas, as follows: it is “ a mastery exercised by the thinker upon what is thought in which the object’s resistance as an exterior being vanishes”(59). Once Lurie controls his thoughts, he practices what Marais calls, in “The Possibility of Ethical Action” “the violence of representation”(59), which means  that “ ‘Through  language, the subject negates the being or presence of things’”(60). Lurie is trying to nail things down, to make them be a certain way by thinking and  saying that they are that way. He is trying to assert his epistemological and ontological priority over both the world and his opponents. He wants to prevail by having his language game prevail But he fails, leaving his opponents in control of definition and of reality.


[11] Poyner, in “Truth and Reconciliation” argues that the Committee is interchangeable with the Commission on Reconciliation, suggesting that Coetzee is not-so-subtly critiquing the practices of those post-apartheid bodies.


[12] Attridge argues in “Age of Bronze” that what Coetzee is really objecting to is not the Commissions but the modern globalized world, and the bureaucratic forces that shape it. The way in which Attridge characterizes these forces resembles what I wrote in the body of this essay about the world view of the University Committee.


[13] This analysis suggests that language operates, with respect to power, as Levinas and Blanchot say it does (see note 11), but more particularly in the ways Michel Foucault suggested in Discipline and Punish and  Power/Knowledge. When he travels to the country, the same linguistic hegemony obtains: Lucy identifies, in the way she talks, with the way those now in control talk, and Lurie’s language games, once more, fail to



[14] Rita Barnard  makes the point that in “these times” the idea that the country represents any sort of refuge does not make much sense, a claim that is thoroughly seconded by the home invasion and rape. Lurie is a fugitive, whether he likes it or not.


[15] Nyman, Poyner, Tremaine and Marais are some of the critics who raise the questions of truth and knowledge in Disgrace. Nyman and Poyner see the work as a deconstructive critique of the hegemonic Western subject position.


[16] It is at this point  that Lurie enters, or begins to enter, that state of grace so central to Attridge’s concern, that place beyond definitions and outside of history that Marais discusses, that land of fables to which Wright alludes. Blanchot’s Literature,  cited in Marais, “Little Enough”,   talks  about “what things and beings would be if there were no world”, “prior to the day”(333, 329). Marais also cites Levinas’ Meaning as it talks about the importance of “the subject’s failure to reduce the other to an object”, which “means that he or she is surprised by the other”(95-100). Beyond all language games and beyond all attempts to impose meaning, Lurie is now available to what Jolly, in “Gong to the  Dogs”, calls “the corporeality of the other”(153).

As Tremaine writes in “The Embodied Soul” “The ironic, skeptical tautly cerebral voice in which Coetzee treats textuality, rationality and ideology grows silent and we hear emerging instead a voice that insists, with a more visceral urgency, on the direct, factual and compelling reality of bodily suffering and death”(588).


[17] Others have noted the ubiquity of  animal references in Coetzee’s work in general (Nyman, Mason, Tremaine, inter alia) and there is a complex critical discussion of what roles animals play in that work. Are they  allegorical? Synechdochal?, as Barnard suggests,  or are they, as Dostoevsky avers in the Master of Petersburg, not signs at all, but just dogs? He “is waiting for a sign, and he is betting . . . that the dog is not a sign at all, just a dog among many dogs howling in the night” (83).  However one stands in that debate, there is no question that both dogs and other animals play a range of figurative roles in Coetzee’s work from similes to metaphors to allegories. And there is even less question that, in Disgrace,, as Herron says, the animals “emerge from under the shadows cast by the more obviously weighty ethical and political matters invoked by the text”(477).   


[18] Tremaine suggests that Poyner and  Seidel believe that Lurie’s involvement with the animals is a form of retribution for past crimes against women and is also a form of redemption(604-605). Attridge explicitly rejects this claim (115-116).


[19] See Heidegger, 307-309.


20 It is for these reasons – that Lurie imagines that goats know their place in the world, that dogs have a theory of justice, that sheep have souls, that dogs love—that I find myself ultimately rejecting the view, advanced most fully by Michael Marais and Rosemary Jolly but also present in some form in Wright, and even in both Attridge and Graham, that Lurie relates to the animals as to the wholly Other, and that this Other is beyond the limits of  language, non-representable and mysterious. Marais argues that it is precisely because animals are entirely other, and the act of sympathetic imagination fails (here Wright agrees), that animals have a serious ethical presence. It is their persistence on the limits of our understanding that make us take them seriously.  I think that Marais and Jolly, and by extension Levinas and Blanchot,  have a serious point in arguing that the ethical demand comes from outside the exclusionary space of the conscious self, and that the demand is limitless, unending. But I tend to agree more with Derek Attridge who, despite some flirtations with the Levinasian position, argues that Lurie remains consistent through the novel, always believing in the primacy of the subject and its knowing, and that what Lurie is honoring is the animals’ singularity, which he knows as a subject knowing other subjects.. Attridge puts the matter this way: what Lurie is honoring is “the singularity of every living and dead being, . . .  In this operation we find the operation of something called grace” (117).  Rita Barnard sums up the position nicely by connecting infinite Levinasian responsibility with a continuing concern for the other as a known single individual:”In refusing to single out the special dog, Lurie is accepting, perhaps helplessly, perhaps resolutely, the claims of an infinite number of other creatures with whom he has no special connection – who are neither his own kind nor his historical victims. . . . the claims of the “menny” – too many – suffering others. They are all equally urgent, and they are by definition excessive and incalculable; yet we seem obscurely bound to these forgotten creatures” (940-41).  Yet, to enrich this idea, which could have come from Marais or Levinas, she adds a moderating citation from Derrida’s The Gift of Death: “But of course, what binds me thus in my singularity to the singularity of the other, immediately propels me into the space or risk of absolute sacrifice. There are also the others, an infinite number of them, the innumerable generality of others to whom I should be bound by the same responsibility, a general and universal(italics mine) responsibility(what Soren Kierkegaard calls the ethical order). I cannot respond to the call, the request, the obligation or even the love of another, without sacrificing the other other, the other others”. (Cited from Attridge, “Expecting the Unexpected in Coetzee’s Master of Petersburg and Derrida’s Recent Writings” 30).

Here, Barnard and Derrida invoke the idea that there is a universal ethical order, funded on reason, that assigns responsibility because of the shared being of humans and animals. It is not impenetrable difference, but penetrable sameness, that creates the bond and the obligation.


[21] We cannot help but be reminded of Dostoevsky’s warning in The Master of Peterburg  about the importance of being able to tell signs from things that are not. In Lurie’s case the animals do not seem to be signs of anything other than themselves, but that also seems to be enough.


[22] This is one of the key sentences that makes me disagree with the Levinasian critics. When Coetzee writes that Bev Shaw “enters into” the dog’s life he cannot mean, as both Marais and Wright argue, that in Disgrace the sympathetic imagination fails . Wright mitigates her belief in the failure of what Elizabeth Costello advances as the nub of her position on animals by admitting that

“Coetzee’s writing reveals the often humorous, transparent beauty of the imagination at work, forever trying to place itself within the consciousness of the other”(124-125).  


[23] Here, again, is an indicator that the animals are not other at all, but know in the same ways as Lurie knows. And, Lurie seems to know that they know.  Even Marais, the major Levinasian/Blanchot proponent, shows what appears to be a slight inconsistency in arguing that Lurie comes to love the animals, something he would have a hard time doing if had really immolated his selfhood in their service. Furthermore, Marais does allow, in “Imagination”, that “the questioning of the imagination and articulation of its aporetic nature paradoxically establish its ethical necessity”, which means that because Lurie cannot really imagine how the dogs’ minds work, his awareness that they have minds, and might have foreknowledge, leads to a deeper ethical appreciation (80).

I think the passage just cited, and the one cited for note 24, both militate against this Levinasian reading.


[24] This “idea of the world” sounds suspiciously like a universalist, (totalizing?) rational principle based on the judgment that if both dogs and men have something important in common ( bodies? souls? subjecthood?) then in both cases,-- dogs and men – then we should not live in a world in which either one is dishonored in death by having his or her body beaten to fit into a crematorium opening.

I side with both Susan Neiman in Moral Clarity and Gillian Rose  in The Work of Mourning in believing that subjectivity and reason  have a sui generis legitimacy that transcends historical conditions Tremaine agrees, stating that  “David maintains from beginning to end his “idea of the world”, his obstinate assertion of the “integrity of the self”, an integrity that survives even after death”(605). It is this subjecthood, and this thinking, that Lurie shares with the animals and it is this sameness, as opposed to an absolute difference, that enlists his ethical regard and his love. With Neman and Rose I believe that it is this shared subjecthood and rationality that provides a foundation for a hopeful politics. The Levinasian loss of faith in reason and subjecthood is as debilitating and as devastating as the Marxist reduction of all thinking to ideology, or Foucault’s analogous and equally catastrophic reduction of all knowledge to an exercise of power.

I do not claim that, for Lurie, animals reason in just the same way that humans reason – Elizabeth Costello makes clear that she sees reason as a purely human adaptation, and one of ambiguous value when it is used to oppress others. Nyman, Jolly, Attridge and to a degree Samuelson share a diffidence about reason, for different reasons. What I want to argue is two things: first, that pace Costello, reason can operate independent of narrow self-interest, as it does in Lurie’s no-shovels principle, and second, that humans and animals do share bodies, souls and thinking, in which case the last need not be confined to our form of reasoning. I want to note that I think Laura Wright is correct arguing that all of Lurie’s conclusions are revisable, dialogic, dynamic. Lurie advances the principle diffidently and has the decency and common sense not to try to defend it – a sense Elizabeth Costello, disastrously, lacks. He puts it out as a possibility, something to be discussed, if there were anyone interested enough to listen to what he has to say, which there is not. This is a good example of reason working in a non-oppressive, non-reductive way.


[25] Herron and Tremaine  make  like claims when they assert that Lurie has become a dog, or dog-like by novel’s end.















Works Cited



Attridge, Derek. “Expecting the Unexpected in Coetzee’s Master of Petersburg and  Derrida’s Recent Writings.” Applying to Derrida. Ed. John Brannigan, Ruth Robbins and  Julian Wolfreys. London: Macmillan, 1996, 21-40.

_______“Age of Bronze, State of Grace: Music and Dogs in Coetzee’s Disgrace.”

      Twentieth Century Novel  34.1(2000): 98-121.

Bailey, Cathryn. “On the Backs of Animals:The Valorization of Reason in Contemporary Animal Ethics.” Ethics and the Environment 10(1) (2005): 1 – 17.

Blanchot, Maurice. “Literature and the Right to Death.” The Work of Fire. Trans. Charlotte Mandell. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995. 300-343.

Barnard, Rita. Apartheid and Beyond: South African Writers and the Politics of Place. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Coetzee, J.M.”Erasmus’ Praise of Folly: Rivalry and Madness.” Neophilologus 76.1 (1992):1 -18. 

_______ The Master of Petersburg. London: Penguin, 1995.

_______ Disgrace. New York: Penguin Books,1999.

_______ The Lives of Animals. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Cottingham, John. “ ‘A Brute to the Brutes?’ ”: Descartes’ Treatment of Animals.” Philosophy  53. 206 (Oct. 1978): 551-559.

Derrida, Jacques. The Gift of Death. Trans. By David Wills. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995.

_______ The Work of Mourning. Ed and Trans. Pascale-Anne Brault. Ed. Michael Naas, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge:Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972 -1977. Trans. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980.

________Discipline and Punish. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

Graham, Lucy. “’Yes, I am giving him up: sacrificial responsibility and likeness with dogs in Coetzee’s recent fiction.” Scrutiny2 10.1 (2002): 4-15.

Griffin, Susan. Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her. San Francisco: Sierra Cub Books, 2000.

Hacking, Ian M. “Our Fellow Animals”. New York Review of Books 47.11(2000): 20 -26.

Harrison, Peter. “Descartes on Animals.” The PhilosophicalQuarterly, 42.167(April 1992): 219-227.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time.  London: Blackwell. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, Eds.,1962.

Herron, Tom. “The Dog-Man: Becoming Animal in Coetzee’s Disgrace.20th Century Literature Vol. 51.4 (2005) 467- 490.

Jolly, Rosemary. “Going to the Dogs: Humanity in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, The Lives of Animals, and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” J.M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual. Ed. Jane Poyner. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006.

Levinas, Emmanuel. “Meaning and Sense.” 1957. Collected Philosophical Papers.Ed. and trans. Alphoso Lingis. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1987, 75-107.

Lowry, Elizabeth. “Like A Dog.” London Review of Books Vol. 21.20(1999):12-14.

Marais, Michael. Marais, Michael. “Little Enough, Less than Little: Nothing’: Ethics,Engagement and Change in the Fiction of J.M. Coetzee.”Modern Fiction Studies 46.1(2000): 159-182.

“The Possibility of Ethical Action: J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.Scrutiny2 5, no.1 (2000):  57-63.

________“J.M.Coetzee’s Disgrace and the Task of the Imagination.” Journal of Modern Literature 29.2 (2005): 7-93.

Mason, Travis. “Dog Gambit: Shifting the Species Boundary in J.M. Coetzee’s Recent Fiction.” Mosaic 39.4 (2006): 129 – 144.

Nagel, Thomas. “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Philosophical Review 83 (1974): 435-450.

Neiman, Susan. Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists. Orlando: Harcourt, 2008.

Nyman, Jopi. Postcolonial Animal Tale from Kipling to Coetzee. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2003.

Plato. “Republic.” Complete Works. Ed.with Introduction and Notes by John M. Cooper. Trans. G.M.A. Grube, 971-1224. Indianapolis: Hackett Publ. Co., 1997.

___ _____Phaedo”. Plato I: Euthyphro Apology Crito Phaedo Phaedrus. Trans. Harold John

     Fowler. Cambrdge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Poyner, Jane. “Truth and Reconciliation in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.” Scrutiny2: Issues n English Studies in Southern Africa 5.2 (2000): 67-77.

Rose, Gillian. Mourning Becomes the Law: Philosophy and Representation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Samuelson, Meg. Remembering the Nation, Dismembering Women?: Stories of the South African      Transition. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2007.

Seidel, Linda. “Death and Transformation in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.”Journal of

     Colonialism and Colonial History 2:3 (2001): 22.  

Tremaine, Louis. “The Embodied Soul: Animal Being in the Work of J.M. Coetzee.”

     Contemporary Literature 44.4 (2003): 587-612.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe and

     Elizabeth   Anscombe. London: Wiley and Blackwell, 2001.

Weiss, Gail, ed. Perspectives on Embodiment:The Body in Nature and Culture.New

     York:  Routledge, 1999.

Wright, Laura. Writing “Out of All the Camps”: J.M. Coetzee’s Narratives of

     Displacement. New York: Routledge, 2006.







Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>