- LESSING, Doris
- (1919-)Persian (Iranian)-born Southern Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) writer, in UK from 1949. She is best known for her searching examinations of the position of women in the world in such novels as The Golden Notebook (1962). The 5 vols of her Children of Violence sequence deal moreexpansively with the same problems, and The Four-Gated City (1969), which ends the series, moves in its final pages rapidly into the NEAR FUTURE, providing in this fashion a somewhat apocalyptic perspective on the preceding volumes from a viewpoint tinged with Sufi mysticism. This Persian form of Islam, influenced by Indian religions, is centrallyconcerned with the union of the soul with a Higher Being, in terms which are at times surprisingly literal, invoking a kind of drama of the steps one may take in order to achieve transcendence and the permanence of the soul. Much of DL's later work, especially the Canopus in Argos: Archives sequence, can be seen as exegetical of Sufist precepts.Before and after the latter series, however, DL wrote four singletons of some sf interest. Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) puts a schizophreniac through amythic journey. The Summer Before the Dark (1973) submits to a similar voyage of external/internal discovery a woman at a point of crisis in her life. In The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974) a woman watches the end of urban civilization from her window, never leaving her room, while a young girl grows up beside her, giving some muted hope for human continuity; it was filmed as MEMOIRS OF A SURVIVOR (1981). The Fifth Child (1988 US) explores with considerable intensity the consequences of giving birth to an infant so destructive of the humans around him that he seems to be a genuine changeling. Far more expansively than these "domestic" novels, the Canopus in Argos: Archives books place the crises of human self-striving into a metaphysically conceived interstellar frame. Each individual novel in the sequence - Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta (1979 US), The Marriage Between Zones Three, Four, and Five (1980 US), The Sirian Experiments(1981 US), The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (1982 US) and The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire (1983 US) - depicts an exemplary drama of the soul, as inhabitants of various planets, under the distant aegis of the Canopan Empire, attempt to come to terms with sexuality, politics, mortality and transcendence. Shikasta is Earth; the other novels make use of other venues. Everywhere the drive - sometimes thwarted - is towards literal union with universal principles (or God). The series exudes, at times, a piety not normally associated with sf; but at others the perspectives it opens are illuminating. In DL's hands, the instruments of sf become parables.JCOther work: No Witchcraft for Sale: Stories and Short Novels (coll 1956 Russia).About the author: Doris Lessing (1983 chap) by Lorna Sage; Doris Lessing (1985) by Mona Knapp; Unexpected Universe of Doris Lessing (1985) by Katherine Fishburn.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.