Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Two of my heroes died recently - one a brilliant writer and the other a brilliant statesman. Since this is my Book Blog, I'll talk about Doris Lessing here while I will speak of Nelson Mandela on my personal blog. I've reviewed my favourite of Lessing's books in earlier posts below, i.e. the Canopus in Argos: Archives series which I am compelled to re-read from time to time. Works of genius, each one of them, so different in style and theme. The two other great favourites are Briefing for a Descent into Hell and Memoirs of a Survivor. All these works she termed "inner space fiction" which dopey critics changed to "space fiction" entirely missing her point (which I quote in my new book)"For there is never anywhere to go but in." Though I loved her very first book, I was never a big fan of what I call her bourgeois women's literature. I can't help my class-based tastes, the same judgement applies to most of Margaret Atwood's work and the two Amis's and so many other middle-class writers. I just can't get excited about middle-class lives, middle-class characters, middle-class mores etc. They are just so ... dull. (Loved Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale, of course.) As with Mandela, the tragedy of Lessing's loss is mitigated by the grand age she reached: 94. Her reaction to being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature at the age of 88 was hilarious: "Oh Christ, now I'll have to write a speech."

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