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Doris Lessing

Auteur de 35 livres
ajouté par vivih 2013-12-24T14:26:26+01:00


Doris Lessing was born Doris May Taylor in Persia (now Iran) on October 22, 1919. Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Doris's mother adapted to the rough life in the settlement, energetically trying to reproduce what was, in her view, a civilized, Edwardian life among savages; but her father did not, and the thousand-odd acres of bush he had bought failed to yield the promised wealth.

Lessing has described her childhood as an uneven mix of some pleasure and much pain. The natural world, which she explored with her brother, Harry, was one retreat from an otherwise miserable existence. Her mother, obsessed with raising a proper daughter, enforced a rigid system of rules and hygiene at home, then installed Doris in a convent school, where nuns terrified their charges with stories of hell and damnation. Lessing was later sent to an all-girls high school in the capital of Salisbury, from which she soon dropped out. She was thirteen; and it was the end of her formal education.

But like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school (such as Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer), Lessing made herself into a self-educated intellectual. She recently commented that unhappy childhoods seem to produce fiction writers. "Yes, I think that is true. Though it wasn't apparent to me then. Of course, I wasn't thinking in terms of being a writer then - I was just thinking about how to escape, all the time." The parcels of books ordered from London fed her imagination, laying out other worlds to escape into. Lessing's early reading included Dickens, Scott, Stevenson, Kipling; later she discovered D.H. Lawrence, Stendhal, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. Bedtime stories also nurtured her youth: her mother told them to the children and Doris herself kept her younger brother awake, spinning out tales. Doris's early years were also spent absorbing her fathers bitter memories of World War I, taking them in as a kind of "poison." "We are all of us made by war," Lessing has written, "twisted and warped by war, but we seem to forget it."

In flight from her mother, Lessing left home when she was fifteen and took a job as a nursemaid. Her employer gave her books on politics and sociology to read, while his brother-in-law crept into her bed at night and gave her inept kisses. During that time she was, Lessing has written, "in a fever of erotic longing." Frustrated by her backward suitor, she indulged in elaborate romantic fantasies. She was also writing stories, and sold two to magazines in South Africa.

Lessing's life has been a challenge to her belief that people cannot resist the currents of their time, as she fought against the biological and cultural imperatives that fated her to sink without a murmur into marriage and motherhood. "There is a whole generation of women," she has said, speaking of her mother's era, "and it was as if their lives came to a stop when they had children. Most of them got pretty neurotic - because, I think, of the contrast between what they were taught at school they were capable of being and what actually happened to them." Lessing believes that she was freer than most people because she became a writer. For her, writing is a process of "setting at a distance," taking the "raw, the individual, the uncriticized, the unexamined, into the realm of the general."

In 1937 she moved to Salisbury, where she worked as a telephone operator for a year. At nineteen, she married Frank Wisdom, and had two children. A few years later, feeling trapped in a persona that she feared would destroy her, she left her family, remaining in Salisbury. Soon she was drawn to the like-minded members of the Left Book Club, a group of Communists "who read everything, and who did not think it remarkable to read." Gottfried Lessing was a central member of the group; shortly after she joined, they married and had a son.

During the postwar years, Lessing became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist movement, which she left altogether in 1954. By 1949, Lessing had moved to London with her young son. That year, she also published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, and began her career as a professional writer.

Lessing's fiction is deeply autobiographical, much of it emerging out of her experiences in Africa. Drawing upon her childhood memories and her serious engagement with politics and social concerns, Lessing has written about the clash of cultures, the gross injustices of racial inequality, the struggle among opposing elements within an individuals own personality, and the conflict between the individual conscience and the collective good. Her stories and novellas set in Africa, published during the fifties and early sixties, decry the dispossession of black Africans by white colonials, and expose the sterility of the white culture in southern Africa. In 1956, in response to Lessing's courageous outspokenness, she was declared a prohibited alien in both Southern Rhodesia and South Africa.

Over the years, Lessing has attempted to accommodate what she admires in the novels of the nineteenth century - their "climate of ethical judgement" - to the demands of twentieth-century ideas about consciousness and time. After writing the Children of Violence series (1951-1959), a formally conventional bildungsroman (novel of education) about the growth in consciousness of her heroine, Martha Quest, Lessing broke new ground with The Golden Notebook (1962), a daring narrative experiment, in which the multiple selves of a contemporary woman are rendered in astonishing depth and detail. Anna Wulf, like Lessing herself, strives for ruthless honesty as she aims to free herself from the chaos, emotional numbness, and hypocrisy afflicting her generation.

Attacked for being "unfeminine" in her depiction of female anger and aggression, Lessing responded, "Apparently what many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing came as a great surprise." As at least one early critic noticed, Anna Wulf "tries to live with the freedom of a man" - a point Lessing seems to confirm: "These attitudes in male writers were taken for granted, accepted as sound philosophical bases, as quite normal, certainly not as woman-hating, aggressive, or neurotic."

In the 1970s and 1980s, Lessing began to explore more fully the quasi-mystical insight Anna Wulf seems to reach by the end of The Golden Notebook. Her "inner-space fiction" deals with cosmic fantasies (Briefing for a Descent into Hell, 1971), dreamscapes and other dimensions (Memoirs of a Survivor, 1974), and science fiction probings of higher planes of existence (Canopus in Argos: Archives, 1979-1983). These reflect Lessing's interest, since the 1960s, in Idries Shah, whose writings on Sufi mysticism stress the evolution of consciousness and the belief that individual liberation can come about only if people understand the link between their own fates and the fate of society.

Lessing's other novels include The Good Terrorist (1985) and The Fifth Child (1988); she also published two novels under the pseudonym Jane Somers (The Diary of a Good Neighbour, 1983 and If the Old Could..., 1984). In addition, she has written several nonfiction works, including books about cats, a love since childhood. Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949 appeared in 1995 and received the James Tait Black Prize for best biography.

Addenda (by Jan Hanford)

In June 1995 she received an Honorary Degree from Harvard University. Also in 1995, she visited South Africa to see her daughter and grandchildren, and to promote her autobiography. It was her first visit since being forcibly removed in 1956 for her political views. Ironically, she is welcomed now as a writer acclaimed for the very topics for which she was banished 40 years ago.

She collaborated with illustrator Charlie Adlard to create the unique and unusual graphic novel, Playing the Game. After being out of print in the U.S. for more than 30 years, Going Home and In Pursuit of the English were republished by HarperCollins in 1996. These two fascinating and important books give rare insight into Mrs. Lessing's personality, life and views.

In 1996, her first novel in 7 years, Love Again, was published by HarperCollins. She did not make any personal appearances to promote the book. In an interview, she describes the frustration she felt during a 14-week worldwide tour to promote her autobiography: "I told my publishers it would be far more useful for everyone if I stayed at home, writing another book. But they wouldn't listen. This time round I stamped my little foot and said I would not move from my house and would do only one interview." And the honors keep on coming: she was on the list of nominees for the Nobel Prize for Literature and Britain's Writer's Guild Award for Fiction in 1996.

Late in the year, HarperCollins published Play with A Tiger and Other Plays, a compilation of 3 of her plays: Play with a Tiger, The Singing Door and Each His Own Wilderness. In an unexplained move, HarperCollins only published this volume in the U.K. and it is not available in the U.S., to the disappointment of her North American readers.

In 1997 she collaborated with Philip Glass for the second time, providing the libretto for the opera "The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five" which premiered in Heidelberg, Germany in May. Walking in the Shade, the anxiously awaited second volume of her autobiography, was published in October and was nominated for the 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award in the biography/autobiography category. This volume documents her arrival in England in 1949 and takes us up to the publication of The Golden Notebook. This is the final volume of her autobiography, she will not be writing a third volume.

Her new novel, titled "Mara and Dann", was been published in the U.S in January 1999 and in the U.K. in April 1999. In an interview in the London Daily Telegraph she said, "I adore writing it. I'll be so sad when it's finished. It's freed my mind." 1999 also saw her first experience on-line, with a chat at Barnes & Noble (transcript). In May 1999 she will be presented with the XI Annual International Catalunya Award, an award by the government of Catalunya.

December 31 1999: In the U.K.'s last Honours List before the new Millennium, Doris Lessing was appointed a Companion of Honour, an exclusive order for those who have done "conspicuous national service." She revealed she had turned down the offer of becoming a Dame of the British Empire because there is no British Empire. Being a Companion of Honour, she explained, means "you're not called anything - and it's not demanding. I like that". Being a Dame was "a bit pantomimey". The list was selected by the Labor Party government to honor people in all walks of life for their contributions to their professions and to charity. It was officially bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II.

In January, 2000 the National Portrait Gallery in London unveiled Leonard McComb's portrait of Doris Lessing.

Ben, in the World, the sequel to The Fifth Child was published in Spring 2000 (U.K.) and Summer 2000 (U.S.). Another new novel is planned for next year.

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Note moyenne : 6.79/10
Nombre d'évaluations : 65

0 Citations 52 Commentaires sur ses livres

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Commentaire ajouté par Sand35 2016-05-20T17:18:32+02:00

Petite histoire d'amour et de famille pleine de charme et de joie qui bascule soudainement avec l'arrivée de ce cinquième enfant. Nous sommes témoins de l'enfoncement de cette famille vers la noirceur, l'obscurité du cœur, les non dits et les actes qui nous angoisse. Ce que j'ai adoré c'est la psychologie des personnages, la pression sur la mère, le rejet du père et le délaissement des quatre autres enfants. Il ne faut pas oublier la véritable peur que nous inspire ce fameux ben, le cinquième.... Il faut y voir aussi une fable fictive sur un sujet réel soit l'impact d'une personne différente au sein du famille que ce soit un handicap physique ou mental. Ce fût un petit bonheur de lire ce roman.

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Commentaire ajouté par Julma 2016-05-21T19:10:19+02:00

Voilà un livre grandement apprécié pour l'ambiance qu'il impose. C'est l'histoire d'un couple, l'histoire d'une famille, l'histoire d'une société, qui sont heureux, changent, se déchirent, s'aiment et se repoussent avant de s'effondrer.

Harriet et David ont plein de projets, dont celui de fonder une famille nombreuses. Six enfants, au moins. L'arrivée des quatre premiers est une succession de fête, de joie et d'espoir. Mais quand Ben, le cinquième arrive, tout va changer. Sa naissance n'apporte que rejet et tristesse, tous le fuient, même ses propres parents...

Plongé au coeur des années 1960, le lecteur est pris par le tourbillon qui emporte cette famille vers l'horreur. On est parfois même à deux doigts de basculer dans le fantastique tant la nature de Ben est floue. Il est sans cesse comparé à des monstres tels que les trolls ou les gobelins...

La psychologie des personnages (surtout Harriet et Dorothy) sont très poussées et nous entraîne aux portes de la folie que le désamour d'une mère pour son enfant peut entraîner.

C'est une lecture que je ne risque pas d'oublier de sitôt même si ce n'est absolument pas le genre de livre que j'affectionne.

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Commentaire ajouté par domenica 2016-09-26T20:48:51+02:00

Cela aurait pu être une belle histoire d'amour sous fond de conte de fées seulement voilà...

Un jeune couple se rencontre, se marient et rêvent d'une famille nombreuse.

Ils vont achetés une immense maison dont il ont eu un gros coup de cœur et Harriet va rapidement tombé enceinte, mais pas seulement du premier, va s'en suivre trois autres naissances qui vont l’épuisée littéralement et la famille pourtant heureuse et épanouie devra demander de l'aide.

Et voici qu'une cinquième grossesse non désirée montre le bout de son nez mais celle ci est bien différente des autres, plus difficile, Harriet souffre comme jamais, ce bébé lui déchire les entrailles.

Elle donnera naissance à Ben qui va plonger toute la famille dans une vie terrifiante et nous les suivrons dans une descente aux enfers angoissante.

Magnifique roman qui traite de la différence à une époque ou l'acceptation de cette différence était quasiment neutre, voir cachée et montrer du doigt.

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Commentaire ajouté par Lysianna 2017-04-30T22:43:58+02:00

[Attention, mon commentaire étant désorganisé, je ne veux pas mettre la balise "SPOILER" à tout va, mais je risque de dévoiler pas mal de l'intrigue.]

Ayant lu ce court roman en version originale, cela a quelque peu rallongé ma durée de lecture, faisant durer le plaisir. Et pourtant, l'ambiance mise en place brillamment par Doris Lessing ne donne qu'une envie : lire ce livre d'un bout à l'autre sans une pause afin de savoir ce qu'il advient à ce couple, puis cette famille. Pourtant, je n'ai pas trouvé les personnages de Harriet et David particulièrement sympathiques de premier abord, sans doute influencée par la manière dont ils sont tout d'abord présentés, deux "oddballs" coincés au milieu de la libérations sexuelle des 60s. A tout prendre, leur maison de conte de fées dans laquelle ils mènent une vie de famille tout d'abord idyllique fait finalement d'eux des "excentriques traditionalistes", si l'on peut dire, pas si désagréables que cela. Mais au tiers du roman, cette ambiance de bonheur (déjà teinté d'épuisement : voir surgir tant de personnages en si peu de pages, voir défiler les années et apparaître un nouvel enfant toutes les 5 pages donne une sensation de tourbillon continu qui entraîne et laisse retomber sans force durant les moments de "calme". Le choix de la brièveté fait par l'auteur nous plonge sans doute dans les ressentis d'Harriet qui ne peut reconstituer ses forces d'une grossesse à l'autre, malgré l'aide sans faille de sa mère.) cette ambiance de bonheur donc, s'évapore dès la conception de ce "cinquième enfant". Toute la réflexion "sans recul" sur la monstruosité, parfois à la limite du fantastique est passionnante pour le lecteur, qui parfois fait corps avec Harriet, parfois la considère avec horreur, puis la plaint, comme une victime (mais de quoi ? de qui ? d'où vient Ben ?). Le procédé consistant à ne JAMAIS placer Ben en focalisation interne, de telle sorte que l'on ignore tout de ses pensées (en a-t-il seulement ? en vient-on à se demander) est parfaitement manié, et donne très envie de lire "Le monde de Ben", la suite de l'histoire, donnant cette fois ci la parole à ce personnage à part. Une sensation de tristesse tout de même en refermant ce livre : la nostalgie d'un rêve de vie de famille qui semble s'être peu à peu délité devant une réalité teintée d'horreur.

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Commentaire ajouté par marmotte-s 2017-05-06T13:26:38+02:00

Une histoire qui au départ m'a un peu dérouté . Le livre est très court ce qui fait qu'il se lit très vite. Je n'ai pas trouvé ce livre très prenant et captivant il faudrait que j'essaye d'autre livre de cette auteure

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Commentaire ajouté par Edith972 2017-09-26T16:22:33+02:00

C 'est l'histoire du cinquième enfant qui vient bouleverser la vie d'Harriet et David. qui transforme la vie familiale en enfer. Car Ben est un enfant pas comme les autres. Déclaré normal par les médecins, Ben ne ressemble pas à un bébé classique et allie une force inouïe à une grande violence...

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Commentaire ajouté par ilovelire 2017-10-04T00:10:59+02:00

C'est agréable et très bien écrit mais je n'en garderais pas un souvenir inoubliable.

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Commentaire ajouté par marmotte-s 2017-11-29T13:10:13+01:00

Victoria, une petite fille noire après une nuit passée chez la famille Stevenay va la garder en mémoire ce qui va influencer toute sa vie. Dix ans après elle a un enfant avec un des garçons Stevenay, elle va rêver d’une vie meilleure pour sa fille mais le prix à payer le mérite – t il.

Un livre très bien écrit mais pour moi pas assez abouti.

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Commentaire ajouté par Auchama 2018-03-15T15:02:24+01:00

Le problème avec ce livre est que je ne l'ai pas aimé mais je ne l'ai pas détesté non plus. Il m'a laissée perplexe.

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Commentaire ajouté par passiondulivre88 2018-05-04T16:38:21+02:00

Deux mères cougars, deux fils en pleine fleur de l'âge, petits arrangements amoureux en famille au bord de la plage... Une histoire à la fois mièvre et invraisemblable qui ne m'a vraiment pas passionné. Le ridicule n'est pas loin.

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