Dorris Lessing's classic series of autobiographical novels is the fictional counterpart to Under My Skin. In these five novels, first published in the 1950's and 60s, Doris Lessing transformed her fascinating life into fiction, creating her most complex and compelling character, Martha Quest.
Four novellas by Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, that once again show her to be unequalled in her ability to capture the truth of the human condition.
The title story, ‘The Grandmothers’, is an astonishing tour de force, a shockingly intimate portrait of an unconventional extended family and the lengths to which they will go to find happiness and love. Written with a keen cinematic eye, the story is a ruthless dissection of the veneer of middle-class morality and convention.
‘Victoria and the Staveneys’, takes us through 20 years of the life of a young underprivileged black girl in London. A chance meeting introduces her to the Staveneys – a liberal white middle-class family – and, seduced, she falls pregnant by one of the sons. As her daughter grows up, Victoria feels her parental control diminishing as the attractions of the Staveneys’ world exert themselves. An honest and often uncomfortable look at race relations in London over the past few decades, Lessing reaffirms her brilliance at demonstrating the effect of society on the individual.
With these novellas, and ‘The Reason for It’ and ‘A Love Child’, Lessing proves once again that she is one of our most valuable and insightful living authors.
The stories and sketches in this collection penetrate to the heart of human experience with the passion and intelligence readers have come to expect of Doris Lessing. Most of the piece are set in contemporary London, a city the author loves for its variety, its diversity, its transitoriness, the way it connects the life of animals and birds in the parks to the streets. Lessing's fiction also explores the darker corners of relationships between women and men, as in the rich and emotionally complex title story, in which she uncovers a more parlous reality behind the facade of the most conventional relationship between the sexes.
The Good Terrorist follows Alice Mellings, a woman who transforms her home into a headquarters for a group of radicals who plan to join the IRA. As Alice struggles to bridge her ideology and her bourgeois upbringing, her companions encounter unexpected challenges in their quest to incite social change against complacency and capitalism. With a nuanced sense of the intersections between the personal and the political, Nobel laureate Doris Lessing creates in The Good Terrorist a compelling portrait of domesticity and rebellion.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
All Doris Lessing's short novels and stories are now collected into two volumes, This Was The Old Chef's Country and The Sun Between Their Feet. This volume contains all the stories from the original book entitled This Was The Old Chief's Country and three of the short novels from Five, the book which won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1954.
'I believe,' writes Doris Lessing, "that the chief gift from Africa to writers, white and black, is the continent itself, its presence which for some people is like a old fever, latent always in their blood; or it like an old wounded throbbing in the bones as the air changes. That is not a place to visit unless one chooses to be an exile ever afterwards from an inexplicable majestic silence lying just over the border of memory or of thought. Africa gives you the knowledge that man is a small creature, among other creatures, in a large landscape.'
In this Edition:
The Old Chief Mshlanga
A Sunrise on the Veld
No Witchcraft for Sale
The Second Hut
The De Wets Come to Kloof Grange
Old John's Place
Winter in July
A Home for the Highland Cattle
Includes the Preface for the 1964 Collection and a new Preface for the 1973 Collection. All of these stories appeared in African Stories, 1963.
In the aftermath of World War II, Martha Quest finds herself completely disillusioned. She is losing faith with the communist movement in Africa, and her marriage to one of the movement's leaders is disintegrating. Determined to resist the erosion of her personality, she engages in the first satisfactory love affair and breaks free, if only momentarily, from her suffocating unhappiness.
Landlocked is the fourth novel of Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence sequence of novels, each a masterpiece in its own right, and collectively an incisive, all encompassing vision of our world in the twentiethcentury.
Author Biography: Doris Lessing was born Doris May Taylor in Persia (now Iran) on October 22, 1919. Both of her parents were British: Her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Her mother installed Doris in a covenant school, and then later in an all-girls high school in the capital of Salisbury, from which she soon dropped out. She was 13, and it was the end of her formal education.
Lessing's life has been a challenge to her belief that people cannot resist the currents of their time, as she fought against the cultural and biological imperatives that fated her to sink without a murmur into marriage and motherhood. Lessing believes that she was freer than most people because she became a writer. For her, writing is a process of "setting a distance," taking the "raw, the individual, the uncriticized, the unexamined, into therealm of the general."
Lessing's fiction is deeply autobiographical, much of it emerging out of her experiences in Africa. Drawing upon her childhood memories and her serious engagement with politics and social concerns, Lessing has written about the clash of cultures, the gross injustices of racial inequality, the struggle among opposing elements within an individual's own personality, and the conflict between the individual conscience and the collective good.
Over the years, Lessing has attempted to accommodate what she admires in the novels of the 19th century — their "climate of ethical judgment" — to the demands of 20th-century ideas about consciousness and time. After writing the Children of Violence series (1952-1959), a formally conventional bildungsroman (novel of education) about the growth in consciousness of her heroine, Martha Quest, Lessing broke new ground with The Golden Notebook (1962), a daring narrative experiment in which the multiple selves of a contemporary woman are rendered in astonishing depth and detail. Anna Wolf, like Lessing herself, strives for ruthless honesty as she aims to free herself from the chaos, emotional numbness and hypocrisy afflicting her generation.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Lessing began to explore more fully the quasi-mystical insight Anna Wolf seems to reach by the end of The Golden Notebook. Her "inner-space fiction" deals with cosmic fantasies Briefing for a Descent into Hell, 1971), dreamscapes and other dimensions (Memoirs of a Survivor, 1974), and science-fiction probings of higher planes of existence (Canopus in Argos: Archives, 1979-1983). These reflect Lessing's interest, since the 1960s, in Idries Shah, whose writings on Sufi mysticism stress the evolution of consciousness and the belief that individual liberation can come about only if people understand the link between their own fates and the fate of society.
Lessing's other novels include The Good Terrorist (1985) and The Fifth Child (1988); she also published two novels under the pseudonym Jane Somers (The Diary of a Good Neighbor, 1983, and If the Old Could., 1984). In addition, she has written several nonfiction works, including books about cats, a love since childhood. Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949 was recently joined by Walking in the Shade: 1949 to 1962, both published by HarperCollins.
Published in America as The Real Thing: Stories and Sketches.
Across eighteen short stories, Lessing dissects London and its inhabitants with the power for truth and compassion to be expected of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007.
'During that first year in England, I had a vision of London I cannot recall now … it was a nightmare city that I lived in for a year. Then, one evening, walking across the park, the light welded buildings, trees and scarlet buses into something familiar and beautiful, and I knew myself to be at home.'
Lessing’s vision of London – a place of nightmares and wonder – underpins this brilliantly multifaceted collection of stories about the city, seen from a cafe table, a hospital bed, the back seat of a taxi, a hospital casualty department; seen, as always, unflinchingly, and compellingly depicted.
Doris Lessing, one of England's finest living novelists, invites us to imagine a mythical society free from sexual intrigue, free from jealousy, free from petty rivalries: a society free from men. An old Roman senator, contemplative at his late stage of life, embarks on what will likely be his last endeavour: the retelling of the story of human creation. He recounts the history of the Clefts, an ancient community of women living in an Edenic, coastal wilderness, confined within the valley of an overshadowing mountain. The Clefts have no need nor knowledge of men -- childbirth is controlled, like the tides that lap around their feet, through the cycles of the moon, and their children are always female. But with the unheralded birth of a strange, new child -- a boy -- the harmony of their community is suddenly thrown into jeopardy. At first, in their ignorance, the Clefts are awestruck by this seemingly malformed child, but as more and more of these threateningly unfamiliar males appear, now unfavourably nicknamed Squirts, they are rejected, and are exposed on the nearby mountainside; sacrificed to the patrolling eagles overhead, the sentinels of their female haven. Unbeknownst to the Clefts, however, these baby males survive, aided by the very eagles sent to kill them, and thrive on their own on the other side of the mountain. It is not until an unusually curious young Cleft named Maire goes beyond the geographical, and emotional, divide of the mountain that this disquieting fact is uncovered -- a discovery that forces the Clefts to accept and realign themselves to the prospect of a now shared world, and the possible vengeance of the wronged males. In this fascinating and beguiling novel, Lessing confronts head-on the themes that inspired much of her early writing: how men and women, two similar and yet thoroughly distinct creatures, manage to live side by side in the world, and how the specifics of gender affect every aspect of our existence.
Doris Lessing's love affair with cats began at a young age, when she became intrigued with the semiferal creatures on the African farm where she grew up. Her fascination with the handsome, domesticated creatures that have shared her flats and her life in London remained undiminished, and grew into real love with the awkwardly lovable El Magnifico, the last cat to share her home.
On Cats is a celebrated classic, a memoir in which we meet the cats that have slunk and bullied and charmed their way into Doris Lessing's life. She tells their stories—their exploits, rivalries, terrors, affections, ancient gestures, and learned behaviors—with vivid simplicity. And she tells the story of herself in relation to cats: the way animals affect her and she them, and the communication that grows possible between them—a language of gesture and mood and desire as eloquent as the spoken word. No other writer conveys so truthfully the real interdependence of humans and cats or convinces us with such stunning recognition of the reasons why cats really matter.
The second volume of Doris Lessing's extraordinary autobiography covers the years 1949-62, from her arrival in war-weary London with her son, Peter, and the manuscript for her first novel, The Grass is Singing, under her arm to the publication of her most famous work of fiction, The Golden Notebook. She describes how communism dominated the intellectual life of the 1950s and how she, like nearly all communists, became disillusioned with extreme and rhetorical politics and left communism behind. Evoking the bohemian days of a young writer and single mother, Lessing speaks openly about her writing process, her friends and lovers, her involvement in the theater, and her political activities. Walking in the Shade is an invaluable social history as well as Doris Lessing's Sentimental Education.
The first book after Doris' Nobel Prize takes her back to her childhood in Southern Africa and the lives, both fictional and factual, that her parents lead. 'I think my father's rage at the trenches took me over, when I was very young, and has never left me. Do children feel their parents' emotions? Yes, we do, and it is a legacy I could have done without. What is the use of it? It is as if that old war is in my own memory, my own consciousness.' In this extraordinary book, the new Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing explores the lives of her parents, both of them irrevocably damaged by the Great War. Her father wanted the simple life of an English farmer, but shrapnel almost killed him in the trenches, and thereafter he had to wear a wooden leg. Her mother Emily's great love was a doctor, who drowned in the Channel, and she spent the war nursing the wounded in the Royal Free Hospital. In the first half of this book, Doris Lessing imagines the lives her parents might have made for themselves had there been no war at all, a story that has them meeting at a village cricket match outside Colchester as children but leading separate lives. This is followed by a piercing examination of their lives as they actually came to be in the shadow of that war, their move to Rhodesia, a damaged couple squatting over Doris's childhood in a strange land. 'Here I still am,' says Doris Lessing, 'trying to get out from under that monstrous legacy, trying to get free.' With the publication of Alfred and Emily she has done just that.
An unconventional woman trapped in a conventional marriage, Martha Quest struggles to maintain her dignity and her sanity through the misunderstandings, frustrations, infidelities, and degrading violence of a failing marriage. Finally, she must make the heartbreaking choice of whether to sacrifice her child as she turns her back on marriage and security.
A Proper Marriage is the second novel in Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence series of novels, each a masterpiece on its own right, and, taken together, an incisive and all-encompassing vision of our world in the twentieth century.
At eighteen, Ben is in the world, but not of it. He is too large, too awkward, too inhumanly made. Now estranged from his family, he must find his own path in life. From London and the south of France to Brazil and the mountains of the Andes. Ben is tossed about in a tumultuous search for his people, a reason for his being. How the world receives him, and, he fares in it will horrify and captivate until the novel's dramatic finale.
Anna is a writer, author of one very successful novel, who now keeps four notebooks. In one, with a black cover, she reviews the African experience of her earlier year. In a red one she records her political life, her disillusionment with communism. In a yellow one she writes a novel in which the heroine reviles part of her own experience. And in the blue one she keeps a personal diary. Finally, in love with an American writer and threatened with insanity, Anna tries to bring the threads of all four books together in a golden notebook.
This book includes every story written by Doris Lessing about Africa: all of her first collection, This Was the Old Chief's Country (unavailable in America); the four tales about Africa from Five (also unavailable); the African stories from The Habit of Loving and A Man and Two Women and four stories never before collected.
This, then, is Doris Lessing's Africa - where she lived for twenty-five years and where so much of her interest and concern still resides. Here, as she sees them, are the complexities, the agonies and joys, the textures of African life and society.
The collection, bridging as it does Mrs. Lessing's entire writing career, contains much of her most extraordinary work. Beyond that, it is a brilliant portrait of a world that is vital to all of us, shadowy to most of us - perceived by an artist of the first rank writing with passion and honesty about her native land.
It is a central book in the work of one of the most important of today's writers.
Set against the backdrop of the decade that changed the world forever, The Sweetest Dream is a riveting look at a group of people who dared to dream-and faced the inevitable cleanup afterward -- from one of the greatest writers of our time.
This major collection contains all of Doris Lessing’s short fiction, other than the stories set in Africa, from the beginning of her career until now. Set in London, Paris, the south of France, the English countryside, these thirty-five stories reflect the themes that have always characterized Lessing’s work: the bedrock realities of marriage and other relationships between men and women; the crisis of the individual whose very psyche is threatened by a society unattuned to its own most dangerous qualities; the fate of women.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Intelligent, sensitive, and fiercely passionate, Martha Quest is a young woman living on a farm in Africa, feeling her way through the torments of adolescence and early womanhood. She is a romantic idealistic in revolt against the puritan snobbery of her parents, trying to live to the full with every nerve, emotion, and instinct laid bare to experience. For her, this is a time of solitary reading daydreams, dancing -- and the first disturbing encounters with sex. The first of Doris Lessing's timeless Children of Violence novels, Martha Quest is an endearing masterpiece.
In a beleaguered city where rats and roving gangs terrorize the streets, where government has broken down and meaningless violence holds sway, a woman -- middle-aged and middle-class -- is brought a twelve-year-old girl and told that it is her responsibility to raise the child. This book, which the author has called "an attempt at autobiography," is that woman's journal -- a glimpse of a future only slightly more horrendous than our present, and of the forces that alone can save us from total destruction