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Doris Lessing: A Biography

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Based on exclusive interviews with the fascinating Doris Lessing's lovers, colleagues, and friends, this first biography of one of the twentieth century's most influential writers uncovers the woman that Lessing herself withheld in her autobiographical novels and memoirs. For beyond the courageous, resourceful figure who fearlessly challenges the status quo in works like t Based on exclusive interviews with the fascinating Doris Lessing's lovers, colleagues, and friends, this first biography of one of the twentieth century's most influential writers uncovers the woman that Lessing herself withheld in her autobiographical novels and memoirs. For beyond the courageous, resourceful figure who fearlessly challenges the status quo in works like the four-volume Children of Violence or Lessing's masterpiece. The Golden Notebook, this revealing study finds an emotionally fragile woman forever in search of her essential identity.Displaced and rebellious, born in Persia and raised in Rhodesia, Lessing was twice married and divorced by the age of thirty, when she moved to Britain with an unpublished manuscript and one of her children. An ardent Communist before and during World War II -- when she was married to a German -- she distanced herself from the Party shortly thereafter. Similarly, she ardently embraced and then discarded feminism. A prolific writer, she continued throughout her career to chart new territory, most famously with the series of science-fiction novels she submitted to her publisher under a pseudonym, and to reinvent the formidable persona masking the far more frangible self that this book reveals.


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Based on exclusive interviews with the fascinating Doris Lessing's lovers, colleagues, and friends, this first biography of one of the twentieth century's most influential writers uncovers the woman that Lessing herself withheld in her autobiographical novels and memoirs. For beyond the courageous, resourceful figure who fearlessly challenges the status quo in works like t Based on exclusive interviews with the fascinating Doris Lessing's lovers, colleagues, and friends, this first biography of one of the twentieth century's most influential writers uncovers the woman that Lessing herself withheld in her autobiographical novels and memoirs. For beyond the courageous, resourceful figure who fearlessly challenges the status quo in works like the four-volume Children of Violence or Lessing's masterpiece. The Golden Notebook, this revealing study finds an emotionally fragile woman forever in search of her essential identity.Displaced and rebellious, born in Persia and raised in Rhodesia, Lessing was twice married and divorced by the age of thirty, when she moved to Britain with an unpublished manuscript and one of her children. An ardent Communist before and during World War II -- when she was married to a German -- she distanced herself from the Party shortly thereafter. Similarly, she ardently embraced and then discarded feminism. A prolific writer, she continued throughout her career to chart new territory, most famously with the series of science-fiction novels she submitted to her publisher under a pseudonym, and to reinvent the formidable persona masking the far more frangible self that this book reveals.

30 review for Doris Lessing: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hermien

    Interesting woman and it was enjoyable to put her books in context.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mohammed omran

    في هذا الكتاب الانيق تؤكد الكاتبه الرائعه ليسنغ عن العالم الإنكليزي لتقول أنه عالم مغلق على ذاته، وليس فيه دم يتجدد، كأنها تنقل بهذا انطباعاً عاماً عن بريطانيا الفاقدة الحيوية منذ عدة عقود من الزمن، وتجد المناسبة ملائمة لتتحدث عن النتاج البريطاني الأدبي: فتجد أن لا حيوية فيه، وسبب ذلك هو عدم وجود هوة بين الأجيال. ذلك مع أنها لا تعتقد بالأصل بوجود هوة بين الأجيال، وهي تعتقد أن الذي يوجد هذه الهوة ليس غير قلة التجربة. ومن ناحيتها هي، فإن ذلك الانسداد على صعيد الحياة العامة اليومية أفادها بأن جعلها في هذا الكتاب الانيق تؤكد الكاتبه الرائعه ليسنغ عن العالم الإنكليزي لتقول أنه عالم مغلق على ذاته، وليس فيه دم يتجدد، كأنها تنقل بهذا انطباعاً عاماً عن بريطانيا الفاقدة الحيوية منذ عدة عقود من الزمن، وتجد المناسبة ملائمة لتتحدث عن النتاج البريطاني الأدبي: فتجد أن لا حيوية فيه، وسبب ذلك هو عدم وجود هوة بين الأجيال. ذلك مع أنها لا تعتقد بالأصل بوجود هوة بين الأجيال، وهي تعتقد أن الذي يوجد هذه الهوة ليس غير قلة التجربة. ومن ناحيتها هي، فإن ذلك الانسداد على صعيد الحياة العامة اليومية أفادها بأن جعلها تنغلق على نفسها وتستغرق في الكتابة الدائمة، وبصفاء كبير... وربما يكون هذا ما جعل كتابتها منذ البداية نوعاً من سيرة ذاتية متواصلة، هي التي لم تكن تؤمن أولاً بالسيرة الذاتية الواقعية، «فالسيرة الذاتية هي دائماً سيرة متخيلة بالمعنى العميق للكلمة، حتى وإن كانت بعض الأحداث الواقعية تتدخل في صياغة أحداث السيرة المتخيلة وتقودها من بعيد». > والحقيقة أن هذا يقود ليسنغ إلى الحديث مفصلاً عن كتبها، فتقول مثلاً أن واحداً منها هو سيرة لشخص يواجه الشيخوخة والموت من دون أن يكون لديه من يعرفه أو يتعرف عليه. إنها الشيخوخة الفعلية التي يعيشها سكان أوروبا في المدن الكبرى أو الصغرى أيضاً، حيث تشكل الشيخوخة إحدى السمات المأساوية للحياة الأوروبية القائمة على التفرد والاغتراب والتمزّقق وغياب الهوة بين الأجيال ذات المردود العملي اليومي. وهي تعرف أن هنالك هوة بين الأجيال في بلدان غير أوروبية، إلا أن تلك الهوة لا تترك الشيوخ لعزلتهم الرهيبة. وهنا تصل إلى كتابها القديم «أولاد العنف» فهو بجزء كبير منه مستوحى... من حياتها «في المستعمرات البريطانية في افريقيا وآسيا» وليس من حياتها هي فحسب، بل من حياة والدها بصورة خاصة. إذ هي تعتبره شخصية روائية من الدرجة الأولى. غير أن الصفحات التي تخصصها في سيرتها للحديث عن نضالاتها في صفوف الحزب الشيوعي وخيباتها إزاء تلك النضالات، تبقى أكثر أهمية من تلك التي تكرسها للحديث عن أبيها، هي التي ولّد لديها احتكاكها بشعوب المستعمرات اشمئزازاً من القوى المستعمرة، والبريطانية في مقدّمها. > مهما يكن، ترى دوريس ليسنغ أن الكتابة، خاصة الروائية منها، هي عبارة عن حال من التنويم المغناطيسي الإرادي. حيث يرحل الكاتب إلى مكان آخر وعالم آخر. «كأن العالم والحياة ليسا هنا بل هنالك». ثم أن «الأفكار لا تصنع كاتباً. وهي أيضاً لا تستطيع أن تصنع رواية». فالرواية، كما ترى هي حالة متقدمة من العمل الصحفي، إذ هي تعطي معلومات دقيقة ووافية عن أجزاء وعن مجتمعات غريبة عن بعضها ومتحاجزة في أحيان كثيرة. فالرواية، «إلى جانب خاصيتها وميزتها الأدبية، يجب أن تحمل كمية كبيرة من العلامات والمعلومات، فلو أخذنا بروست مثلاً، الذي هو أحد اكبر الكتّاب بالنسبة اليّ، فسنجد أنه أعطى صورة واضحة وتفصيلية عن الحياة في عصره وزمنه. لنقرأ أيضاً دوستويفسكي الذي أنار الطريق لفرويد مكتشف علم النفس الاجتماعي». > لكن، كما تعتقد ليسنغ، فإن عديداً من الكتّاب الذين يهربون من الوقائع الاجتماعية لعصرهم، ليسوا إلا أنصاف كتّاب. إنهم «الكتّاب المأزومون الذين يخضعون إلى جلسات تحليل نفساني عيادي لدى مختصّين. هم يتوقفون عن الكتابة ويذهبون إلى المحلل النفساني على اعتبار أن المدى الكتابي عندهم قد انغلق». وهي تروي لنا كيف أنها جرّبت مرة أن تذهب إلى محللة نفسية لتطلع على هذه الظاهرة الرائجة لدى الفنانين، «لكن المحللة لم يسرّها أبداً أن أكون غير مأزومة، إذ إنني خيّبت ظنّها».

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I agree with the reader who says there is a slant to this book. Carole Klein seems to dislike Lessing, but its hard to pinpoint. I felt an undercurrent of antipathy, especially during the first half. Perhaps Klein was just irked because Lessing declined to be interviewed for the biography. That should not have come as a surprise, Lessing was known to be difficult on that score, but a biographer has a special relationship with the subject; it is natural to want access. Despite that tug, I found th I agree with the reader who says there is a slant to this book. Carole Klein seems to dislike Lessing, but its hard to pinpoint. I felt an undercurrent of antipathy, especially during the first half. Perhaps Klein was just irked because Lessing declined to be interviewed for the biography. That should not have come as a surprise, Lessing was known to be difficult on that score, but a biographer has a special relationship with the subject; it is natural to want access. Despite that tug, I found the book rewarding. Klein's fact-filled writing goes down easily. The odd thing is that although I have reservations about Klein's window to Lessing, I'm not ready to let this book rest. I may have to re-read it. Doris Lessing's life is multi-layered, at times altruistic, at times rigidly self-serving, but she was always revolutionary. I'll have to add Lessing's memoirs to my want-to-read list.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gizzard

    I did not know much about Doris Lessing, just that she had lived in Africa, wrote the Golden Notebook and Children of Violence series. Lessing lived a fascinating life, but if there isn't a slant to this biography, she just was not a likeable person. The only reasons this did not get a five - 1) It appears that the author extrapolated Lessing's feelings based on her books, and the author also does a lot of literary criticism/ psychoanalysis. Some of it seemed like a little too much conjecture fo I did not know much about Doris Lessing, just that she had lived in Africa, wrote the Golden Notebook and Children of Violence series. Lessing lived a fascinating life, but if there isn't a slant to this biography, she just was not a likeable person. The only reasons this did not get a five - 1) It appears that the author extrapolated Lessing's feelings based on her books, and the author also does a lot of literary criticism/ psychoanalysis. Some of it seemed like a little too much conjecture for a biography. There is also a lot of side information- about Rhodesia, psychiatry, other people, communism. I found all of this fascinating. However, these are all unfamiliar subjects. I also listened to the book, and wonder if the side notes would be distracting on the page. Anyway- RECOMMENDED.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elsabe

    I intended to read a book OF Doris Lessing and not a biography of her when I loaned this audiobook. When I realized my error I did decide to give it a try and enjoyed it tremendously. I could not decide if Doris’s life was that interesting ( I am South African and could identify) or weather it is such a well written story. It unfolded beautifully with enough detail and philosophy to keep one interested. I also particularly like the way the author always sketched the bigger picture so one could r I intended to read a book OF Doris Lessing and not a biography of her when I loaned this audiobook. When I realized my error I did decide to give it a try and enjoyed it tremendously. I could not decide if Doris’s life was that interesting ( I am South African and could identify) or weather it is such a well written story. It unfolded beautifully with enough detail and philosophy to keep one interested. I also particularly like the way the author always sketched the bigger picture so one could really get the perspective.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Doti

    Not an entertaining read, but quite interesting. Lessing is a complex character and does not engender great warmth. Yet, trying to understand who she is (a quest she seems to continue) and why she is as she is, I found I could accept, or even like, some traits. I do want to read more of Lessing's books now; so the bio was a good idea. Not an entertaining read, but quite interesting. Lessing is a complex character and does not engender great warmth. Yet, trying to understand who she is (a quest she seems to continue) and why she is as she is, I found I could accept, or even like, some traits. I do want to read more of Lessing's books now; so the bio was a good idea.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Good, standard biography of Lessing when she was still alive. Would like to read an updated version. Doesn't exactly pull punches in talking about Lessing's cantankerousness, which, while interesting, is not surprising. At least it's a different perspective on a complex and groundbreaking novelist. Good, standard biography of Lessing when she was still alive. Would like to read an updated version. Doesn't exactly pull punches in talking about Lessing's cantankerousness, which, while interesting, is not surprising. At least it's a different perspective on a complex and groundbreaking novelist.

  8. 4 out of 5

    J

    A fascinating biography that must have been terribly difficult to write. Lessing was such a complex character. I loved the last line: "You didn't go to Lessing for tolerance, but for inspiration." A fascinating biography that must have been terribly difficult to write. Lessing was such a complex character. I loved the last line: "You didn't go to Lessing for tolerance, but for inspiration."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    The last quarter was interesting because of the information about other people I am interested in - I was glad I read it but very glad when I finished it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michele A.

    enjoyed this book....would recommend it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Billy Sheppard

    This bio seems to be a trustworthy recounting of Lessong's life with some insight. This bio seems to be a trustworthy recounting of Lessong's life with some insight.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Terry

  13. 5 out of 5

    Syed Yasin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Prunella

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tangi Carter Pryor

  17. 5 out of 5

    Deanna

  18. 5 out of 5

    Raluca

  19. 4 out of 5

    Maretta

  20. 4 out of 5

    Silvia

  21. 5 out of 5

    Louise

  22. 5 out of 5

    Blackhall Housebound

  23. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Maven

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christina Kohler

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Litherland

  26. 4 out of 5

    Violet Alvarado

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Karen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jasveen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

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