"It was about midway into his second semester back as a full-time professor that Coleman spoke the self-incriminating word that would cause him voluntarily to sever all ties to the college- the single self-incriminating word of the many millions spoken aloud in his years of teaching and administering at Athena, and the word that, as Coleman understood things, directly led to his wife's death."
Dense, unflinching and delivered at a rapid fire pace, the language of this novel is expertly crafted and draws the reader into the troubled world of ageing academic, Coleman Silk. The victim of a campaign purporting to out his racism and based solely on the misunderstanding of one word during a lecture, Coleman's inability to combat the accusation changes his life.
In his later years, Coleman is reinvigorated by his affair with illiterate janitor, Faunia. Her backstory is violent and paved with sexual abuse, heartache and disaster. Their unlikely relationship makes for compelling but often times disturbing reading. The physicality of their relationship engenders between them an atmosphere of trust that draws out Colman's deepest, darkest secret. A secret that will not stay hidden for such secrets leave behind a "human stain".
Midway through the book, I was sure that I would mark it around the 4 mark, but the emergence of the voice of Nathan Zuckerman, the author of the story within the novel, towards the end made me reconsider. 5 out of 5.