She died today at home, aged 94. Doris Lessing, writer of more than 60 works, of novels, short stories, plays, poetry. A writer who defied categorisation, a writer of ideas.
Many critics claim the Golden Notebook was her best work, but in my opinion it’s The Four-Gated City.
It’s a great loaf of a novel, the culmination of her Children of Violence series, about the young Martha Quest, who in this novel begins her life over again in post war London. It’s a long time ago that I read this book, but I remember and love her descriptions of London, of drinking tea in Jimmy and Iris’s cafe, looking out through the grimed glass, walking hurridly through the bombed-out streets, the ruined houses, the ever-present river. She writes about the city as a slow-moving organism, the buildings bombed out by war revealing layer after layer of wallpaper – each an emotional expression of lives lived within.
It’s a novel about about life lived under the nuclear threat. She draws on imaginary novels, diaries, letters, notes shopping lists and actual historical events to build a picture of a society breaking down.
She was a prescient writer, ahead of her time. Vale Doris Lessing, I’ll be reading your books again.
See Doris Lessing video here.