I don't know if I dare blog my farewell to Doris Lessing after reading her wonderful Nobel speech, in which she says

How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by this internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc.

I'll dare, because I'd be delighted if she came back to haunt me.



My special bookcase, inherited from a beloved uncle and nestled into a corner of my bedroom, contains a lot of Doris Lessing books. I value them enough to keep them close to me, out of borrowing range and therefore safe from disappearing.


I loved the portrayal of Martha Quest, growing up in Africa and then moving out into a wider world. There weren't many young women using their intelligence, independence and sexual freedom in the literature I was familiar with when I was a youngish woman. Nor were there many writers who described landscape so lovingly and precisely, and with such relish, as she did in her novels (and in her Nobel speech.)

My mind is full of splendid memories of Africa which I can revive and look at whenever I want. How about those sunsets, gold and purple and orange, spreading across the sky at evening. How about butterflies and moths and bees on the aromatic bushes of the Kalahari? Or, sitting on the pale grassy banks of the Zambesi, the water dark and glossy, with all the birds of Africa darting about. Yes, elephants, giraffes, lions and the rest, there were plenty of those, but how about the sky at night, still unpolluted, black and wonderful, full of restless stars.

Not many writers had her gift of comprehending futures as she did in books like “Mara and Dann” and “The good terrorist”. More than anything else she avoided the cliche and romanticising of fictional lives, and dealt with hard things honestly, particularly in “The fifth child” and “Ben in the world.” It took me a long time to tackle her “science fiction” because of a dislike of the genre, but when I finally did I found them philosophically and humanely satisfying. Like Yeats, her craft grew and matched her ageing and the world she aged into. Her death has taken me back to her books and all the challenges and provocations they offer.