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May 10, 2013

The Grass is Singing

Doris Lessing, Nobel Laureate

The Author

Doris Lessing who is in her nineties, has lived an unconventional life. Born in Persia of British parents, she grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Having left school and home at 15, she worked and self-tutored herself. Politics and sociology caught her interest. She began writing. For many years she was an ardent communist. Because of her strong and vocal anti-nuke and anti-apartheid views she was banned from South Africa and Rhodesia. Two failed marriages and three children later, she fled to London and settled there. Here, in 1950, she published her first novel The Grass is Singing.

The Golden Notebook came out in 1962. While many consider it a feminist classic, the author herself decries the label. The structure of the novel is difficult and the plot covers mental breakdown, socialism and feminism in post-war England. I have read it more than once, without fully digesting its complexity  If one must, I would call the theme primarily psychological. 

In the sixties, dissatisfied with Marxism, Lessing turned to Sufism. Her books began to dwell more on spiritualism and ‘inner space”. She wrote science fiction too. The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974) belongs to this period. The plot begins with the disintegration of society and depicts external anarchy combined with a kind of inner warp in time and space. It is a disturbing work of futuristic fiction.

In 2007 Doris Lessing was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature, one of 11 women so honored in 106 years. It was the latest in a series of prestigious literary awards. The reaction of the 87-year-old writer when she heard of it: “Oh Christ!”.

Book Review

Title: The Grass is Singing
Author: Doris Lessing


Work in progress

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