Special Sub-Topic: A New Lease on Lessing
|Doris Lessing began writing in Southern Rhodesia which today is known as Zimbabwe. She was always a rebel, being strongly opposed to racial segregation in Salisbury. She married, quickly, unhappily, and then left her marriage and Southern Rhodesia for England, her suitcase filled with the manuscript of her first novel with a title which suggests hopes for more harmonious times. What is the the title of this first, prize-winning, novel?|
The Grass Is Singing. Lessing's first novel is not part of any group of novels. It presents a young woman in love in beautiful, lush lands which are nevertheless contaminated by the practice of apartheid.
Lessing started to write novels in groups of four or five novels. Her first novel group was called "The Children of Violence." This title refers to the long-term problems of people affected by World War II. In this series, she focused on the growing up of Martha Quest, a character many have compared to Lessing herself. Martha Quest is a character Lessing that has thought of as "ironic, "dry" (Interview, "Driver").
|In her personal life, Lessing moved from being a member of the Communist Party (temporarily) to learning a lot from an Arabic form of Islam that stresses the inner or mystical dimension of learning. What is the name for this significant, yet little talked about, way of learning?|
Sufism. Many Sufi teachers think of it as a "science," a way of knowing which can cleanse the spirit and bring one closer to the divine.
Later, Lessing writes an introduction to her "mentor" Idries Shah's book, "Learning How to Learn." Her introduction is called "Beginning To Begin."
|Lessing's first series of five novels, "Children of Violence," began with "Martha Quest," a growing-up novel or bildungsroman. It ended with a much less personal novel published in 1969, dealing with the collapse of the known external world. It presents patterns for remaking the world and its cities. What is its name? Think of people living together.|
The Four-Gated City. In four earlier novels, often set in Africa and looking back to the immediate past, Doris Lessing has examined the period of World War II and what she also thought of as the closing of a stage of life. Now, in the fifth visionary novel, she carries her protagonist, Martha Quest, to London and a bigger world in the present and in the future. Many Lessing scholars have pointed to the healing nature of this book which might, they said, help lessen the traumas of the generation she called the 'children of violence.' Of this generation, "We are all of us made by war," Lessing has written, "twisted and warped by war, but we seem to forget it." http://www.dorislessing.org/biography.html
|Lessing interrupts her "orderly" story of Martha Quest, whom some think is an alter ego for Lessing herself, to write a novel in 1962. Many call this her book about feminism or the "sex war." This book deals with a woman writer, Anna Wulf, a woman who simultaneously writes about and experiences drastic mental experiences. Anna additionally has explicit relationships with famous men and has a close friendship with another woman. This novel is named...?|
The Golden Notebook. Anna Wulf tries to live with all the liberty that she thinks men do. She had been the writer of one quite successful book. In this novel, however, she feels unsuccessful, fragmented. Therefore, she keeps four separate notebooks: 1) a black one, in which she reviews the previous years in Africa, 2) a red one, in which she records her political life and her disillusionment with Communism, 3)a yellow one, which is a piece of fiction, specifically an autobiographical kind of novel, and 4) a blue one which is a personal diary. Finally, in the golden notebook, the fifth one, Anna works to bring the fragments of all four books together.
Lessing will later wonder why everyone thought she was writing a novel about the "sex war." She said she was writing about the increasing tendency by people to fragment things. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1653
|In the late 1960s, Lessing writes two novels which move from being external realism to more subjective examinations of people's internal lives. Lessing blends different forms, such as the memoir, history, and the diary to make a mix of subjective and objective worlds. She calls these "inner space fiction." What is one name of one of these new novels?|
Memoirs of a Survivor. The second book in this period is called "Briefing for a Descent Into Hell." This novel is a mixture of history, myth, fable. Unusual things happen, such as gods sitting at conference tables having long dull meetings. Meanwhile, narrator/Professor Charles Watkins tries to recount objectively unusual experiences he has, but he finds it impossible to be objective. Actually, the reader gradually learns that Watkins is a patient at a mental asylum where he is simultaneously "taking a trip" in his own mind. The "hell" he enters is simultaneously "out there" and in his mind.
|After writing many books dealing with characters in a real world, Lessing steadily moved to her unique form of science fiction. She invented various planets and world orders. She always kept a focus on knowing, learning, identity and understanding. While her earlier "Children of Violence' series dealt with the World War II generation and their inheritance of violence, what was the name of her subsequent series of space fiction?|
Canopus in Argos: Archives. This series of books goes beyond realism in its content and its forms. They take place in a unspecified future period and deal with intense interplanetary struggles as well as profound fables of romantic love. Lessing has indeed created what she calls 'a new world for myself.' http://www.dorislessing.org/shikasta.html
|Lessing is a true experimenter. She writes essays, travel accounts, poetry, plays, memoirs, and literary criticism. In each form, she "pushes" against expected literary shapes to make something new. As she said in a interview with Driver, "I don't polish my fiction; I roughen it." (Interview Driver)
Which of the following titles could be an example of travel fiction?
African Laughter. Remember that Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and that she was exiled from her homeland until the 1990s. In 1956, specifically, in response to Lessing's political beliefs, she was prohibited from both Southern Rhodesia and South Africa.
During her return visit, she also was allowed to discuss publicly her views. It is interesting to note that she could then talk about subjects which had previously led to her banishment four decades before.
|Which of the following titles is not part of the "Canopus in Argos" series?|
Mara and Dann. As usual, Lessing has five novels as a part of this grouping of space fiction. These were published between 1979 and 1983. In these books, Lessing examines in a new way relations between the inner and the outer.
|In addition to the fame of "The Golden Notebook," Lessing is particularly famous for two novels which deal in different ways with women growing older. The first novel presents Kate on a journey to Spain, and the second introduces a nameless woman unexpectedly presented with the responsibilities of "mothering." In the first novel, a woman in midlife crisis faces herself and lets her hair go grey. This novel about growing older is called____|
The Summer Before the Dark. After her explicit space fiction, Lessing returns to realist themes of the past: the city, rebels, growing up, marriage. She surprises many by two radical books: one called "The Sweetest Dream," a look back to Britain of the past. The second novel, published in 1985, is called "The Good Terrorist."
This novel is called an example of a "reifungsroman," a novel of growing older, of ripening. This is a genre which does not receive a lot of attention in our youth oriented culture.
|Recently, Lessing again writes of what she calls the "individual conscience" in struggle with "the collective good."
She writes two novels of young people dealing with catastrophe. One she subtitles "An Adventure." This relatively new book deals with two people in their struggle with their world. What is its title?|
Mara and Dann. This novel presents two children faced with a global catastrophe: a new Ice Age. Some estimate that it takes place some thousands of years in the future. While the northern hemisphere is buried under ice and snow, in a southern place called Ifrik, two children, Mara (seven years old) and Dann, get taken from their family one night. The two are brought up as outcasts and slowly learn to survive. Eventually, they try to join a group heading north. Those in the south need to leave because of drought; they hope to find water up north. Finding water is, of course, a universal symbol of fertility and regrowth, as readers have seen in T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland."
As always, Lessing is interested in critical global and cultural situations which are of immediate interest to her readers.
|Which of the following is NOT a book from "The Children of Violence"? Remember that she is interested in people in times of violence, struggle and difficulty.|
Going Home. The four first novels of the "Children of Violence" series dealt with growing up in Africa and looking back at the past. This new visionary novel takes Martha Quest into the future, out of the world of realism. It portrays the definite end of an era and shows a great uncertainty about how individuals can work with each other in the face of catastrophe and fear. This novel is immensely visceral and powerful. Many readers voiced the hope that the sheer force of Lessing's vision might provide a touch of hope and help lessen the traumas of the children of violence.
|What is the title of Lessing's very unusual novel (2007), which deals with an ancient community of women? As usual, Lessing has a narrator remembering an experience. This narrator is a Roman senator. This novel really explains the origin of gender differences in a very Lessing-like way. |
The Cleft. Here, Lessing returns to the issue which never disappears from her writing: gender, love, individuals and groups working together. It is probably the most unique novel of Lessing's entire oeuvre. She speculates in it about the origins of gender identity and ponders over the causes of what we call masculinity and femininity. She does this as usual through the eyes of an unusual narrator: in this case a Roman senator.
|Later in her life, she wrote two volumes of her autobiography, saying she would never write the whole thing because she did not want to offend any living person. Which one of these is a title of her autobiography?|
Walking in the Shade. This book is "Volume Two of My Autobiography" from 1949 to 1962. This vibrant memoir explores the time period between her arrival in London until the publication of "The Golden Notebook" in 1962.It deals with the effects of the Cold War, Lessing's bohemian days in London and her mixed sense of optimism and chilling fear of another war.
"Under My Skin" is the title of her highly praised Volume One of her autobiography.
|In what year do you think Lessing was born?|
1919. Her father had been crippled in World War I. Her mother was a nurse. They both thought they could make money maize farming in Southern Rhodesia. Lessing had what she thought of as the freest time being in the wide open in the 'veldt,' but the struggles of her parents affected her very much. Her father suffered steadily from pain, and her mother didn't fit into the settlers' life, reacting to it as a Victorian woman would. To keep up appearances, her mother even had a piano shipped from England so that she could have a "proper" living room.
|In what year did Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature?|
2007. When she was awarded the Nobel Prize, she was honored for being "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny". http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2007/press.html
Interestingly, Lessing recently spoke very negatively about winning the Nobel Prize: -- "Nobel literature prize winner Doris Lessing says she is unlikely to write a new full-length novel, according to excerpts of an interview released Sunday.
In extracts of a BBC interview, Lessing said that winning the prestigious prize had been 'a bloody disaster.'
The 88-year-old author said she no longer has the energy to take on writing a full novel, blaming constant media demands.
'All I do is give interviews and spend time being photographed,' Lessing was quoted as saying in the radio interview, which will be broadcast Monday."
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