Novelist Doris Lessing Who Wrote on Race and Gender Dies at 94

Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Penned 55 Books

wikicommons

By Reuters

Published November 17, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Her output soon ranged far wider.

In some 55 novels and collections of short stories and essays, she turned her inquiring gaze on the interplay between not only men and women but also the individual and society, sanity and madness, and idealism and reality.

Her 1971 work “Briefing For A Descent Into Hell” records the psychiatric treatment of a hallucinating college professor.

A restless curiosity and hunger for reinvention even pushed her into science fiction, heavy like much of her work with a sense of doom that she said stemmed from her father’s experience of World War One.

The five novels of “Canopus in Argos”, published between 1979 and 1983, provide a “space eye” view of human life by describing a colonised planet Earth used as a social laboratory by galactic empires.

Lessing’s disregard for others’ opinions meant that she was not afraid of controversy, angering Americans by saying that the 9/11 attack was “neither as terrible nor so extraordinary” as people thought.

She was also not afraid to change her views, renouncing her youthful espousal of communism, but not the passion and humanity that drove it.

In 1987’s “The Wind Blows Away Our Words”, Lessing attacked what she saw as the West’s indifference to the war in Afghanistan after making a trip to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.

ALTERNATIVE REALITY

The next year, critics variously read “The Fifth Child”, the story of the havoc that an antisocial child brings to a family, as an allegory of the Palestinian problem, the collapse of the British empire, feminism, genetic experiments, treatment of children in institutions, urban decay, impending apocalypse or even the situation of migrant labourers in Europe.

Lessing, ever the contrarian, said none of those issues had even crossed her mind, and that she had merely been retelling a classic horror story.

Nevertheless, the theme of alternative reality runs through much of her work, evoking her own flight from a childhood coloured by a strained relationship with her parents.

Leaving school at 13 to spite her mother, she educated herself by immersing herself in Dickens, D.H. Lawrence, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, when she was not running off into the bush. Two short-lived marriages followed, and three children, then exile.

Her last novel, “Alfred and Emily”, published in 2008, is half a biography of her parents and half a fictional account of the lives they might have led, if it had not been for the cataclysmic war where her father was maimed in the trenches.

In “Walking in the Shade”, the second volume of her autobiography, she wrote that by the age of 14 she could “set a hen, look after chickens and rabbits, work dogs and cats, pan for gold, take samples from reefs, sew, use the milk separator and churn butter, make cream cheese and ginger beer, … drive the car, shoot pigeons and guineafowl for the pot, preserve eggs - and a lot else.

“Doing these things I was truly happy,” she wrote. “Few things in my life have given me greater pleasure.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.