Study Guide

Disgrace Writing Style

By J.M. Coetzee

Writing Style

Immediate, Scholarly, Pithy, Clean

If we could only say one thing about J.M. Coetzee, it would be, "dang, that man can write." His writing is simple, clean, and straight to the point, but don't be fooled – underneath that straightforward veneer, his words reveal some really complex ideas and emotions. Besides its concision, Coetzee's writing has two trademarks: first of all, like many of Coetzee's novels, Disgrace takes place in the present tense, which has the effect of pulling us right into the moment during every moment – regardless of whether David is delving inward, merely sitting around thinking his deep, brooding thoughts, or if he is experiencing the outside world in a moment of extreme panic, like realizing that his body is literally being lit on fire. No matter what, we're right there with David from start to finish.

The other quality of Coetzee's writing, both in general and in Disgrace specifically, is that it has an extremely learned flavor. Coetzee is a well-educated man, and it shows in every little allusion and reference that he makes. Coetzee's writing exemplifies the amazing amount of content that he has read, researched, and absorbed over the course of his career, both as a scholar and a writer. With their powers combined, these elements – pithiness, immediacy, and bookishness – make for a unique, thought-provoking, and compulsively readable writing style.