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Cover of Doris Lessing's THE SWEETEST DREAM
1.24.03
Arts and Culture:
Doris Lessing: Bibliography
More on These Stories:
A simple internet search for Doris Lessing brings up over 28,000 Web links. There are sites in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Swedish. Some of Lessing's science fiction has been adapted as opera. Her THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK is a standard text for Women's Studies college courses. Just as THE GOOD TERRORIST makes appearances in many political science classrooms and her fiction on English department reading lists. If fact, such is Lessing's long-lasting popularity, college students can purchase a great number of papers on Lessing's works. Topics include: Lessings's use of film imagery as metaphor; her feelings about race in Africa; her intellectual connections with Romanian literature; her relationship to the philosophy of Leibniz, and the use of view-point in TO ROOM NINETEEN. (For more about Doris Lessing's large and varied body of work see the bibliography.)

Doris Lessing has long expressed frustration with being categorized as a feminist writer, a science-fiction writer, a post-imperial writer, a former communist writer or any other label. She is simply a writer:

I do have different kinds of readers. Some of them hate, for example, my so-called science fiction, and others hate my realistic fiction, and so on, and so on. I was once in San Francisco when in the audience, a man stood up and said, "I hope you're not gonna waste any more time writing your realistic fiction." And then, somebody else stood up, and said, "I hope you're not going to waste any more time writing science fiction." And they got into bitter argument, and I just sat and listened. --Doris Lessing
You can also read more about Lessing's life and views by reading her conversation with Bill Moyers and her interview with Salon Magazine, THE NEW YORK TIMES' featured author Web page, The Doris Lessing Retrospective Web Site, and the BBC's author profile. (The excerpts below come from original and current reviews of Lessing's books, interviews with Lessing, and publisher's information.)

THE GRASS IS SINGING

1950

"No impartial critic can fail to overlook the depth and maturity of this remarkable psychological study by a writer hitherto unknown even in her own country. "The Grass is Singing" (a phrase from "The Waste Land") is neither entertaining nor easy to read. It is a painful picture of a woman's failure, in which the drama and conflict are mostly internal."-- John Barkham, "Tragedy on the Veld," THE NEW YORK TIMES, September 10, 1950

"What I'm amazed at is I was 25 when I wrote that book and I would have thought it was an older person's book. 25 is quite young. This is quite a mature book for a young woman, and a very green one, let me tell you. So, I'm quite amazed that I knew all that about human nature." --Doris Lessing, BBC Radio 4 Book Club, September 6, 2001

THIS WAS THE OLD CHIEF'S COUNTRY

1951

"It can be said of all white-dominated Africa that it was - and still is - the Old Chief's Country. So all the stories I write of a certain kind I think of as belonging under that heading: tales about white people, sometimes about black people, living in a landscape that not so very long ago was settled by black tribes, living in complex societies that the white people."--Doris Lessing from book preface.
MARTHA QUEST (Children Of Violence series)

1952

"Martha is all sharp edges-- she can't seem to fit with her parents, the men around her, the people with whom she tries to interact. With the blindness of her age, she's able to acutely feel how hard she has it, without really feeling the struggle of others around her who may have an even more difficult time. By turns infuriating and attractive, it can be painful to read Quest's story precisely because so it's so human as to be disturbingly familiar."--contemporary review from a fan
FIVE

1953

"Two themes in particular have seized her imagination here: the clash of colour, and the lure of gold. Two of the novels are set in the gold-fields. A third, A HOME FOR THE HIGHLAND CATTLE, is the wry comedy of a young English woman newly settled in an African city who, from the most enlightened of motives, departs from the generally accepted way of dealing with native servants. HUNGER is the story of an intelligent young native's fate in moving from the Reserve to the city. In THE OTHER WOMAN, Miss Lessing breaks new ground: she has gone for her scene to the working-class London of the wartime blitz."--original jacket copy
A PROPER MARRIAGE (Children of Violence series)

1954

This book continues the story of Martha Quest as she leaves her farm for 'the big city'. "A Proper Marriage shows how Martha's rebellious temperament reacted to her new life. We read of her growing discontent with the young married set to which she and her husband Douglas now belong; of the arrival of her baby, which seems another threat to her freedom; of the outbreak of war."--original jacket copy
GOING HOME

THE HABIT OF LOVING

1957

"In March of 1956, after an absence of nearly seven years, Doris Lessing returned to Southern Rhodesia where she grew up...Brought up in a country where everyone talks politics all the time, Doris Lessing is naturally politically-minded, with strong views about the colour bar and 'white supremacy'. Going home, she turned herself into a journalist."--original jacket copy
A RIPPLE FROM THE STORM (Children of Violence series)

1958

A RIPPLE FROM THE STORM, (the third of the Children of Violence series) follows Martha Quest's personal and political adventures in race-torn British Africa, following Martha through World War II, a grotesque second marriage, and an excursion into Communism.

"I read the Children of Violence novels and began to understand how a person could write about the problems of the world in a compelling and beautiful way, and it seemed to me that was the most important thing I could ever do."--Barbara Kingsolver.

FOURTEEN POEMS

EACH HIS OWN WILDERNESS

1959

EACH HIS OWN WILDERNESS contains Lessing's foray into drama. The collection includes the title play by Lessing and "The Hamlet of Stepney Green" by Barnard Kops and "Chicken Soup with Barley" by Arnold Wesker.
IN PURSUIT OF THE ENGLISH

1960

"This is the story of a part of Mrs Lessing's life, opening with her departure from South Africa and embodying her first crucial years in England. It is an account characterized by a revealing eye and a balance of humour and humanity. Some of the English, she learned from living in a London working-class home, are lusty, quarrelsome, unscrupulous and full-blooded; in fact, quite unlike what they are supposed to be."--original jacket copy
THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK

PLAY WITH A TIGER

1962

"In Doris Lessing's new novel — her twelfth book, fifth to be published here, and a corruscating literary event — she bites off only one thing that she doesn't properly chew." --Ernest Buckler, "Against the Terror, the Spirit of Sisyphus," THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 1, 1962

"THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK is Doris Lessing's most important work and has left its mark upon the ideas and feelings of a whole generation of women." --Elizabeth Hardwick, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, 2002.

A MAN AND TWO WOMEN

1963

A collection of stories set in both England and Africa. Three of the stories were made into a film, "Un Homme et Deux Femmes," by Valerie Stroh in 1991.
AFRICAN STORIES

1964

The stories in this volume are a collection of four new ones and the whole of THIS WAS THE OLD CHIEF'S COUNTRY, together with four tales from FIVE.
LANDLOCKED (Children of Violence series)

1965

"In the aftermath of World War II, Martha Quest finds herself completely disillusioned. She is losing faith with the communist movement in Africa, and her marriage to one of the movement's leaders is disintegrating. Determined to resist the erosion of her personality, she engages in the first satisfactory love affair and breaks free, if only momentarily, from her suffocating unhappiness."--reprint jacket description
THE BLACK MADONNA

WINTER IN JULY

1966

Companion collections of Lessing's short stories.
PARTICULARLY CATS

1967

"Mrs. Lessing holds the view that a good part of human behaviour, much more than it is flattering to believe, is no more evolved than cat behaviour - which gives us the clue to this book - casual, informal, and indeed, gossipy, about animals and people." --original jacket copy
THE FOUR-GATED CITY (Children of Violence series)

1969

"This volume (of the Children of Violence series) is set in post-war Britain. Martha is integrally part of the social history of the time - the Cold War, the Aldermaston Marches, Swinging London, the deepening of poverty and social anarchy; and the minuteness... and ends with the century in the grip of World War Three, a conclusion like space fiction." --original jacket copy
BRIEFING FOR A DESCENT INTO HELL

1971

"If you're looking for a precise clinical exposition on the subject of insanity look elsewhere...but if you're looking for a thoroughly unique (and yes, challenging) study of what madness may MEAN in the context of a number of layers of existence, then this is a heck of a read." --contemporary fan review
THE STORY OF A NON-MARRYING MAN

THE TEMPTATION OF JACK ORKNEY AND OTHER STORIES

1972

"The title tale ("The Temptation Of Jack Orkney") is about the confrontation of Old Guard Socialist ideologues with the new breed of young activists. This extraordinary novella may well be autobiographical, a dirge for the author's own political past."--THE NEW YORK TIMES, November 10, 1974
THE SUN BETWEEN THEIR FEET

THE SUMMER BEFORE THE DARK

1973

"The revolution that the "aroused consciousness" of women is bringing about in our society has been the concern of scores of novels in recent years. "The Summer Before the Dark" is by far the best to date...In naming "The Summer Before the Dark" one of 1973's outstanding books, the editors of the Book Review declared that "it confirms that Doris Lessing is a plain-speaking, somewhat awkward but immensely attractive master of modern fiction." --Roger Sale, THE NEW YORK TIMES, October, 13, 1974.
THE MEMOIRS OF A SURVIVOR

A SMALL PERSONAL VOICE

1974

"The distended urgency of her earlier heroines is discarded, and the narrator of this book is a woman who turns a cool, faceless attention to the crumbling society around her. From her window she records the landscape of apocalypse with total control, and with a rhetoric that measures (and weights) her experience, that seeks out the phrases that will correctly answer the events of that time, "the protacted period of unease and tension before the end. . ." The city is besieged. Wandering packs of youths devastate an area and then move on. Hordes of people have already left for the country and relative safety." --Maureen Howard, "Doris Lessing Considers Her World and the World," THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 8, 1975
STORIES

TO ROOM NINETEEN (COLLECTED STORIES)

1978

It is not Mrs. Lessing's fault that, among the many secrets she knows, her knowledge of women's anger and aggression, even more than of their sexuality, took people by surprise and categorized her. That is the fault of our times and of history. But this new collection of all her short fiction should repair any misunderstanding of her timelessness, the breadth of her sympathy and range of her interests and, above all, the pleasures of reading her." --Diane Johnson, "Equal to the World,"THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 4, 1978
SHIKASTA RE: COLONISED PLANET 5

1979

The first of Lessing's famed science fiction series.

"The great galactic empires in question are the benevolent Canopus, its ally Sirius and its rival Puttiora, from which criminals escape to colonize Shammat, planet of evil. The novel is in the form of a primer for "first-year students of Canopean Colonial Rule," a collection of documents, reports, diaries, letters, case studies, synoptic histories and explanatory notes, all relating to the planet Shikasta, which its inhabitants call Earth." --George Stade, "Fantastic Lessing," THE NEW YORK TIMES, November 4, 1979

THE MARRIAGES BETWEEN ZONES THREE, FOUR AND FIVE

1980

T"The story of the lovely and amiable Queen of Zone Three and her forced marriage with the soldier-king of Zone Four is a fable and it beguiles and charms like one. The ideal countries invented by women are always kindly, hedonistic, indulgent. Such is Zone Three, and in it is nothing harsh. And the archetypal male country is hierarchic, disciplined, inflexible, dutiful. Perhaps this difficult marriage, unwanted by both, can be seen as an analogy for the balances between impulse and reason, between the instinctive and logical modes of the mind."--original jacket copy.
THE SIRIAN EXPERIMENTS

1981

"The galactic empire Canopus, having won a war with its rival Sirius, offers generous terms of peaceful cooperation in which the Sirians are allowed to conduct evolutionary experiments in the southern hemisphere of earth, while the Canopeans pursue their own experiments in the northern hemisphere. After the radical disruption of a state of primordial unity, the Canopeans assign to our planet the name Shikasta, which is said to imply abandonment and catastrophe, though the less perceptive Sirians persist in calling it by its prelapsarian name, Rohanda, the Fair. The terrestrial experiments of both empires are disastrously subverted by the infiltration into Shikasta of agents from the evil planet Shammat, dedicated to divisiveness and destruction.-- Robert Alter, "Doris Lessing in the Visionary Mode," THE NEW YORK TIMES, January 11, 1981
THE MAKING OF REPRESENTATIVE FOR PLANET 8

1982

"The question: Why does Doris Lessing - one of the half-dozen most interesting m inds to have chosen to write fiction in English in this century - ins ist on propagating books that confound and dismay her loyal readers ? The answer: She intends to confound and dismay." --John Leonard, "The Spacing Out of Doris Lessing," THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 7, 1982
THE SENTIMENTAL AGETNS IN THE VOLYEN EMPIRE

THE DIARY OF A GOOD NEIGHBOR

1983

"The final, and funniest, instalment of the Canopus in Argos: Archives quintet finds Klorathy, the Canopean agent who befriended Ambien II in The Sirian Experiments, dispatched to the Volyen Empire to rescue a fellow agent who's fallen victim to the dreaded disease of Rhetoric."--contemporary fan review
IF THE OLD COULD

THE DIARIES OF JANE SOMERS

1984

"It was only after the death of her husband that Janna Somers began to suspect how much she had missed in her marriage. In If the Old Could, she falls seriously in love for the first time in her life. If the Old Could is a distinguished sequel to the highly acclaimed The Diary of a Good Neighbour. Like its predecessor, it is a wry, challenging and exceptionally perceptive novel for adults of all ages."--Original jacket copy
THE GOOD TERRORIST

1985

"Reading Lessing is like picking up the phone and hearing the voice of an old friend. Leave it to her, no foreigner to the left- to be the first to reveal the pathology inherent in those who make a political cause out of their own alienation... Lessing's story of unfinished growth and the contaminations of naivete and thrill have laid the passage to what now, we in the West have come to fear as no longer distant- terror, youth gone out of control and powerlessness." --contemporary fan review
PRISONS WE CHOOSE TO LIVE INSIDE

THE WIND BLOWS AWAY OUR WORDS

1986

"A fascinating combination of 'the soft sciences' - i.e. sociology, psychology, anthropology - and hard fact is used to address such topics as brainwashing, group mentality and the awesome power of words. There is nothing dauntingly academic or esoteric in these discussions: events from history, recent politics and personal experience - Stalinism, the miners' strike, the Saatchi & Saatchi Tory advertising campaign and her reception in the literary world as Jane Somers - enable Lessing to write accessibly and lucidly about these concepts."--original jacket copy
THE FIFTH CHILD

1988

"As it turns out, the book reads like a horror story, full of suspense and portentous melodrama - a sort of highbrow ROSEMARY'S BABY in which Mrs. Lessing uses the birth of a monstrous child as a springboard to examine the relationship between freedom and responsibility, between private suffering and societal disorder."--Michiko Kakutani, THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 30, 1988
THE DORIS LESSING READER

1989

A collection of extracts from THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK, THE GOOD TERRORIST and THE CANOPUS IN ARGUE and CHILDREN OF VIOLENCE series.
PARTICULARLY CATS AND RUFUS

1991

A new interesting cat joins the others Lessing has known and loved.
LONDON OBSERVED

THE REAL THING: STORIES AND SKETCHES

AFRICAN LAUGHTER: FOUR VISITS TO ZIMBABWE

1993

"In 1956, after the publication of the first two volumes of "Children of Violence," Mrs. Lessing went home for the first time. Because of her political views, she was declared a Prohibited Immigrant and exiled until the old regime in Salisbury succumbed to the forces of black nationalism. In 1982, the Government of Robert Mugabe allowed her back in. AFRICAN LAUGHTER is a jagged but brilliant report of her subsequent visits to the new country of Zimbabwe. It is a saddening tale of the forfeit of possibility." --Vincent Crapanzano, "This Home Can Never Be Home," THE NEW YORK TIMES, October 18, 1992
SHADOWS ON THE WALL OF THE CAVE

CONVERSATIONS

UNDER MY SKIN: VOLUME ONE OF MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY, TO 1949

1994

Lessing gives us an image of child time, for example, with a lice-infested train carriage in the middle of impoverished Russia in 1924, her father helplessly ill with flu, her mother left behind two days before when she stepped off the train to buy food, the little girl dressing and praising her teddy bear, "over and over again, ordering the world, keeping control of events." --Janet Burroway, "An Unfashionable Woman"THE NEW YORK TIMES, November 6, 1994
SPIES I HAVE KNOWN AND OTHER STORIES

PLAYING THE GAME

1995

Ten short stories. "Every one shows a remarkable insight into human nature and allows small glimpses into lives and feelings through extremely strong and believable characters. I found these stories fascinating and often emotional to read. You can't help but be touched by the brief encounters with the personalities in this book."--original jacket copy
LOVE, AGAIN

PUTTING THE QUESTIONS DIFFERENTLY

THE PIT

1996

Most of the characters in Doris Lessing's new novel are at work on ''An Entertainment.'' They're adapting, for the stage, journals and music composed around the turn of the century in Martinique and Provence by a French West Indian "Lessing has set out to create an anatomy of love, to make an inventory of love in all its forms: young love, old love, lustful love, platonic love, love as an affliction and love as a hedge against mortality and despair." --Veronica Geng, "There's No People Like Show PeopleM" THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 21, 1996
WALKING IN THE SHADE

1997

"UNDER MY SKIN, the first volume of Doris Lessing's account of her own life, has already established itself as one of the great modern autobiographies. In WALKING IN THE SHADE, scenes of her childhood and adolescence, and the struggles with her family, are replaced by those of post-war London - bomb-damaged, food-rationed, utility-dressed, cold, dark London - and the battles, both personal and political, of the 1950s."--original jacket copy
MARA AND DANN

PROBLEMS, MYTHS AND STORIES

1999

"A little girl and her baby brother are suddenly ripped from a life of ease and safety and thrust into a life-long adventure, fleeing for their lives in a world gone mad. Lawlessness and social disintegration run rampant, hard on the heels of pervasive drought which will soon make their world uninhabitable. The story takes place far in the future, in a continent called Ifrik (Africa), at a time when our present civilization is buried beneath a new ice age."--contemporary fan review
BEN, IN THE WORLD

THE OLD AGE OF EL MAGNIFICO

2000

Sequel to THE FIFTH CHILD. is come of age, and again finds himself bewildered and alone. He searches in the faces of those he meets, to see the hostility there, or the fear, or, more rarely, the kindness. Occasionally, a gentler, less fearful person understands his need, how hard he is trying to fit in.
THE SWEETEST DREAM

2001

Read the reviews.
  • Salon.com
  • THE GUARDIAN
  • Read Chapter One
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