Doris Lessing

“Doris Lessing: (1919-2013) English novelist and short-story writer, born in Persia and for many years a resident of southern Rhodesia. Lessing’s first two published works, The Grass Is Singing (1950) and the stories in This Was the Old Chief’s Country (1951), are sent in Africa. She then began work on a series called ‘The Children of Violence’—including Martha Quest (1952), A Proper Marriage (1954), A Ripple from the Storm (1958), Landlocked (1965), and The Four-Gated City (1969)—that established her as a vividly realistic novelist, with an intense commitment to socialism and a particular capacity for identifying the social and emotional forces that shape women’s lives. The Golden Nottebook (1962), and ambitious experimental novel about a woman writer’s struggle to discover the meaning of ‘self’ has become a classic of feminist literature. While the primary interest in all of her work has remained the delicate, often destructive interplay between men and women, Lessing has continually expanded both her field of focus and her stylistic experiments. Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) and The Summer Before the Dark (1973) delve into aspects of neurotic disorders and madness. The ‘Canopus in Argus: Archives’ series, which is made up of RE: Colonized Planet 5, Shikasta (1979), The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five (1980), The Sirian Experiments (1981), The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (1982), and Documents Relating to the Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire (1983) is a series of visionary, allegorical novels of the future in which archetypal images of men and women interact in a cosmos consisting of six zones, or ‘levels of being.’ Human concerns are dwarfed by the competition between galactic empires for control of the universe, but these conflicts also are an image of human history. The Good Terrorist, a novel, appeared in 1986. Lessing has also gained high praise as a writer of short stories. Among the most noteworthy of her collections are African Stories (1965), The Habit of Loving (1958), and The Stories of Doris Lessing (1978). Nonfiction works include African Laughter (1992), and Under My Skin (1994), a collection of essays.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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