Intriguing Lessons by Peter J. Leithart

Intriguing Lessons

Elizabeth Costello
by J. M. Coetzee
Viking, 2003
(230 pages; $21.95, hardcover)

reviewed by Peter J. Leithart

J. M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize for literature last year on the strength of nearly a dozen novels, collections of essays, and other writings. His writing is spare, crystalline, precise, and unsentimental.

The plot of one of his best-known works, Disgrace, turns on the rape of Lucy Lurie, a young South African woman who is running a farm in the countryside, a rape that takes place while her father is pathetically locked in the bathroom helpless to intervene. Coetzee handles this scene with understated mastery of a kind th . . .