Postmodern Doris Lessing

I.- Interview to Doris Lessing

II.- A Postmodern Study of Doris Lessing‘s The Golden Notebook in the Light of Jean-Francois Lyotard ‘s Ideas, Shahram Kiaei. Relevant ideas.

A postmodern artist or writer is in the position of a philosopher: the text he writes, the work he produces are not in principle governed by pre-established rules ,and they cannot be judged according to a determining judgment ,by applying familiar categories to the text or to the work. Those rules and categories are what the work of art itself is looking for. The artist and the writer then are working without rules in order to formulate the rules of what will have been done (Lyotard, 1984, p.81).

The Golden Notebook is one of the best-loved and most influential of Lessing‘s novels that invites her readers to discover postmodern fragmented society. When Anna Wulf , the writer and the protagonist, in the beginning of the novel says ―everything is cracking up‖, it implies that the hope of referring to unity has almost disappeared and chaos has an opportunity to emerge. Also, Lessing mentions in the preface of The Golden Notebook; ―its theme is breakdown and fragmentation‖. Chaos and fragmentation are in agreement with the novel. Anna expresses that writing four notebooks instead of one notebook is just because of chaos1. She senses incoherent in both her life and personality. Given different colors for notebooks shows her fragmented personality in the society.

Through writing about the Communist Party Anna feels depressed. The rejection of being a communist is related to Lessing, too. Doris Lessing herself, in an interview with Hermione Lee mentions that ―she has just stopped being a communist and being on the extreme Left‖.2It becomes clear that Lessing was not really satisfied with joining the Communist Party.

She has said that she decided to leave the party a good time before I finally left it. I didn‘t leave it when I decided to, because there was a general exodus, much publicized, from the British Party then, and the journalists were waiting for yet another renegade to publish his, her complaints against the C.P. [Communist Party]. To quote another old communist: ―I find it nauseating when people who have been in the Party ten, twenty years, stagger out shouting and screaming as if they‘ve been raped against their will.‖ I left it because the gap between my own attitudes and those of the party widened all the time. There was no particular event or moment. The 20th Congress [in February, 1956, at which Khrushchev denounced Stalin] shocked me, not because of the ―revelations‖ but because I thought the ―revelations‖ were long overdue, pitifully and feebly put forth, and no one really tried to explain or understand what had happened (schlueter, 2003, p.37).


Postmodern novelists, like Lessing are interested in interpretations and pave the way for the plurality of possible interpretations. The freedom of the postmodern writers is like the freedom of the readers. The Golden Notebook, then, is a novel informing fragments which encourages the readers to grow discouraged with grand narratives; the Communist Party. The most important matter that Anna, the main character, expresses over and over again in her notebooks, specifically in the Red Notebook is the fragmentation and chaos. Also, the acceleration of fragmentation is all over her life. The Critical moment in her dream is the fragmentation. It shows that Anna cannot escape from fragmentation and chaos, even in her dream:

I had a dream for my last appointment. […].I opened the box and forced them to look. But instead of a beautiful thing, which I thought would be there, there was a mass of fragments, but bits and pieces from everywhere, all over the world—I recognized a lump of red earth, that I knew came from Africa, and then a bit of metal that came off a gun from Indo-China, and then everything was horrible, bits of flesh from people killed in the Korean War and a communist party badge off someone who died in a Soviet prison. This, looking at the mass of ugly fragments, was so painful that I couldn‘t look, and I shut the box (GN, pp.252- 253).

She frequently mediates on the difficulty of the Communist Party and regards it inadequate. The red Notebook is a record of a period of history; the Communist Party, but maybe the end of the Communist Party. Most of the characters in the novel, especially Anna realize that they may be at the end of history. They interrogate grand narratives-universal and totalizing stories that give direction to the historical process and legitimize statements of truth. Judith KeganGardiner’s valuable essay on Doris Lessing‘s The Golden Notebook perfectly describes little of internal communist maneuvering in the novel. In an attempt to leave the Communist Party, she often calls it into question. Gardiner (2007) says that most of the communists in the novel are deceived. Communism in The Golden Notebook thus becomes a set of false beliefs. The readers are motivated to discover whether Anna is interested in communism or not.

III.- Comparative analysis with Allen Ginsberg’s Kral Majales

And the Communists have nothing to offer but fat cheeks and eyeglasses and 
lying policemen 
and the Capitalists proffer Napalm and money in green suitcases to the 
and the Communists create heavy industry but the heart is also heavy 
and the beautiful engineers are all dead, the secret technicians conspire for 
their own glamour 
in the Future, in the Future, but now drink vodka and lament the Security 
and the Capitalists drink gin and whiskey on airplanes but let Indian brown 
millions starve 
and when Communist and Capitalist assholes tangle the Just man is arrested 
or robbed or has his head cut off, 
but not like Kabir, and the cigarette cough of the Just man above the clouds 
in the bright sunshine is a salute to the health of the blue sky. 
For I was arrested thrice in Prague, once for singing drunk on Narodni 
once knocked down on the midnight pavement by a mustached agent who 
screamed out BOUZERANT, 
once for losing my notebooks of unusual sex politics dream opinions, 
and I was sent from Havana by planes by detectives in green uniform, 
and I was sent from Prague by plane by detectives in Czechoslovakian 
business suits, 
Cardplayers out of Cezanne, the two strange dolls that entered Joseph K’s 
room at morn 
also entered mine and ate at my table, and examined my scribbles, 
and followed me night and morn from the houses of the lovers to the cafes of 
Centrum – 
And I am the King of May, which is the power of sexual youth, 
and I am the King of May, which is long hair of Adam and Beard of my 
own body 
and I am the King of May, which is Kral Majales in the Czechoslovakian 
and I am the King of May, which is old Human poesy, and 100,000 people 
chose my name, 
and I am the King of May, and in a few minutes I will land at London 
and I am the King of May, naturally, for I am of Slavic parentage and a 
Buddhist Jew 
who whorships the Sacred Heart of Christ the blue body of Krishna the 
straight back of Ram 
the beads of Chango the Nigerian singing Shiva Shiva in a manner which 
I have invented, 
and the King of May is a middleeuropean honor, mine in the XX century 
despite space ships and the Time Machine, because I have heard the voice of Blake 
in a vision 
and repeat that voice. And I am the King of May that sleeps with teenagers 
And I am the King of May, that I may be expelled from my Kingdom with 
Honor, as of old, 
To show the difference between Caesar’s Kingdom and the Kingdom of the 
May of Man – 
and I am the King of May because I touched my finger to my forehead 
a luminous heavy girl trembling hands who said ‘one moment Mr. Ginsberg’ 
before a fat young Plainclothesman stepped between our bodies – I was 
going to England – 
and I am the King of May, in a giant jetplane touching Albion’s airfield 
trembling in fear 
as the plane roars to a landing on the gray concrete, shakes & expels air, 
and rolls slowly to a stop under the clouds with part of blue heaven still 
And tho’ I am the King of May, the Marxists have beat me upon the street, 
kept me up all night in Police Station, followed me thru Springtime 
Prague, detained me in secret and deported me from our kingdom by 
This I have written this poem on a jet seat in mid Heaven. 

Allen Ginsberg

IV.- Doris Lessing’s short stories “A woman on a roof” & “Pleasure”


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