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Deborah Friedell: First Impressions, 16 August 2007

... Pass’; ‘Is Anyone Surprised?’ It’s essentially the same story that ran in 1984, when Doris Lessing wrote two novels under pseudonyms to make the point that no one would notice them. Or last year, when the Sunday Times sent 20 literary agents chapters from old novels by V.S. Naipaul and Stanley Middleton. Cue outrage, embarrassment, ‘we ...

Why didn’t you just do what you were told?

Jenny Diski: The Look on My Face, 5 March 2015

... A few​ years ago, someone asked how it came about that I ended up living with Doris Lessing in my teens. I was in the middle of the story of the to-ing and fro-ing between my parents and was finally reaching the psychiatric hospital bit when the man said something extraordinary, something that had never occurred to me or to anyone else to whom I’d told the story ...

Promises aren’t always kept

Jenny Diski: Goblin. Hobgoblin. Ugly Duckling, 8 October 2015

... the recent pieces about my cancer or my memories of my teenage years and my relationship with Doris Lessing, my older books, fiction and non-fiction, something they’ve read or remembered. They’re remarkably kind (my paranoia wonders, but I fight back the idea that the LRB’s editors hold on to the ones that are not so positive). They are well ...
... Peter Lessing​ died in his flat, of a heart attack, in the early hours of 13 October 2013, aged 66. His mother, Doris Lessing, died four weeks later, on 17 November 2013, aged 94, in the adjoining house. An interconnecting door had been cut into the shared wall and was always left open ...


Alex Zwerdling, 15 October 1987

The Failure of Theory: Essays on Criticism and Contemporary Theory 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Harvester, 225 pp., £28.50, April 1987, 0 7108 1129 2
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... of essays on some of the novelists who have come to prominence since the Fifties: B.S. Johnson, Doris Lessing, Muriel Spark, Anthony Burgess, V.S. Naipaul. The list is not intended to identify a new pantheon, nor meant to be exclusive. Most of the essays were occasional pieces written over the last decade. But they do, individually and ...

Seeing things

Rosemary Dinnage, 4 December 1980

The Story of Ruth 
by Morton Schatzman.
Duckworth, 306 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 7156 1504 1
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... the famous: Edna O’Brien, among others, found it ‘disturbing and quite fascinating’, and Doris Lessing ‘a valuable book, an original’. It is a pity it comes in the kind of packaging that will repel the averagely fastidious reader. Duckworth have printed it in type about one size smaller than that of a Janet and John reader, and sub-titled it ...

What to call her?

Jenny Diski, 9 October 2014

... within a month of each other, neither of them really unexpected after years of frailty, but both, Doris Lessing and her son, Peter, having attachments of some complexity to each other, to my daughter and to me, going back even before I went at 15 to live in their house. When she died last November at the age of 94, I’d known ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... exile, emigration and the free movement of ideas, so that Rushdie and Henry James are in, as are Doris Lessing and Vikram Seth. But Bradbury is remarkably ambivalent about at least one novelist who might be hospitably claimed as a modern British master – V.S. Naipaul, who is briefly referred to as ‘the Trinidadian novelist’. This might place him ...


Stephen Bann, 16 June 1983

Worstward Ho 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 48 pp., £5.50, April 1983, 0 7145 3979 1
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That Voice 
by Robert Pinget, translated by Barbara Wright.
Red Dust (New York), 114 pp., $10.95, May 1983, 0 87376 041 7
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King Solomon 
by Romain Gary, translated by Barbara Wright.
Harvill, 256 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 00 261416 2
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A Year in Hartlebury, or The Election 
by Benjamin Disraeli and Sarah Disraeli.
Murray, 222 pp., £8.50, May 1983, 0 7195 4020 8
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The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02130 3
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... we are reminded that values do not become impregnable because they have been embodied in rhetoric. Doris Lessing has chosen to make a courageous change in direction, towards political satire, in her Canopus in Argos series, which is ostensibly Science Fiction, but reveals itself all too clearly as an allegory of our own sublunary sphere. The names may at ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter, 7 March 1996

Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... for the press corps, whose nature is to sting, and toss off an informed reference to Doris Lessing. In the first half of the book, which follows the New Hampshire primary, those in the know have been impressed by the accuracy or verisimilitude of the information, the wicked caricatures of recognisable players from James Carville (the ...

Ars Brevis, Vita Longa

Dan Jacobson, 16 July 1981

The Oxford Book of Short Stories 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Oxford, 547 pp., £9.50, June 1981, 0 19 214116 3
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The Short Story in English 
by Walter Allen.
Oxford, 413 pp., £9.50, February 1981, 0 19 812666 2
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... one Australian (Patrick White), one Canadian (Morley Callaghan) and one Southern African (Doris Lessing). Of these four writers, three are at least as well-known for their novels as for their stories. Since this review is being written in Australia, I should report that for the occasion I have conscientiously perused The Penguin Book of ...

Daddy’s Girl

Anita Brookner, 22 December 1983

Fathers: Reflections by Daughters 
edited by Ursula Owen.
Virago, 224 pp., £5.50, November 1983, 9780860683940
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... of his daughter’s intellectual independence, one deserts his wife for another woman. Only Doris Lessing and Julia O’Faolain describe their fathers as distinct and separate entities, endowing them with the dimensions of characters in history, allowing them a proper dignity, yet ensuring that they remain physically anonymous. Angela Carter comes ...

‘Thanks a million, big fella’

Daniel Finn: After Ahern, 31 July 2008

... to resign. ‘To my mind it marks a temporary victory for political correctness, defined by Doris Lessing as that which was left when socialism died,’ the veteran broadcaster and former socialist Eoghan Harris insists. ‘Twenty years from now people will be incredulous that the Irish Republic spent three hundred million poking through the pissy ...


C.K. Stead, 10 June 1993

Remembering Babylon 
by David Malouf.
Chatto, 200 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 0 7011 5883 2
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... writer needs to hang on to a sense of probability and of irony. In pre-publication publicity Doris Lessing has welcomed this novel’s ‘really impressive achievement’, which is to compress ‘the myths, the poetry, the history of a vast and ancient continent’; Michael Ondaatje has likened it to ‘a spirit painting in a 19th century locket ...

From Script to Scream

Richard Mayne, 18 December 1980

Caligari’s Children 
by S.S. Prawer.
Oxford, 307 pp., £8.95, March 1980, 9780192175847
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The Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese, Altman 
by Robert Phillip Kolker.
Oxford, 395 pp., £8.50, April 1980, 0 19 502588 1
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... in which the ‘madman’ is sane and the asylum’s director demented. Readers of R. D. Laing or Doris Lessing may well respond to these resonances, as I do myself; and I find equally telling Professor Prawer’s defence of Caligari against purist attacks on its ‘theatricality’ and its stylised painted sets. As he stresses, it was not at all a ...

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