Beiträge zu einer Kritik des ethnologischen Kulturbegriffs
Chapter One: “From a Far Country”
Johan Geertsema National University of Singapore Hidden Literality: Coetzee, Beckett, Herbert, and the Attempt to “Touch Reality” In this article I offer an initial exploration of a complex set of issues that relate to Coetzee’s fundamental ethical engagement with experience and the real, and propose that the literal is one means through which he attempts such engage- ment in the face of writing as a betrayal of the other. I do so by way of a consid- eration of Coetzee’s resistance to interpretation, of which there are numerous examples. In Disgrace a central question is what to make of Lucy Lurie’s decision not only to keep the baby after she falls pregnant, but to accept the farm worker Petrus’s offer of becoming his concubine even though he knows and appears to protect the attackers. Lucy rejects her father’s reading of the attack on her, which is that it is “revenge” (Coetzee 1999: 110), “vengeance” (112) for a “long history of exploitation” (49). David Lurie thinks that his daughter is “meekly” accepting what has happened to her (112), thereby hoping, he suggests in the same passage, to “expiate the crimes of the past by suffering in the present” – in other words, the decades and indeed centuries of gendered racial oppression in South Africa. Yet Lucy responds as follows: “No. You keep misreading me. Guilt and salvation are abstractions. I don’t act in terms of abstractions. Until you make an effort to see that, I can’t help you” (112). What Lucy is...