Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Grandmothers. By Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing used to be one of my favorite writers. Perhaps she still is, with reservations. Over time I found some of her work to be heavily imbued with her political positions, and they were positions I did not especially like. Perhaps if I were on the same track I would have liked them more.

In this case, just one of the stories - The Reason For It - reeks of a kind of moral position. It is the story of a civilization from long ago, where education and work become of little interest to the primary leader and over time to the citizens. Little by little the fabric of the community becomes frayed and there is nobody to care, except "the old ones", including the last of "the twelve".

I can't disagree that a lack of intelligence and learning and a lack of appreciation for work is going to send a community down the tubes. The story does seem heavy-handed, though.

I rather liked the title story - the Grandmothers - in spite of the subject matter, which I admit is a little out there. There is a nice sense of the characters and an emotional charge that's hard to forget. I liked the other two stories as well, perhaps most especially A Love Child. In his youth, a WWII soldier is sent to India to keep the peace (not where he would prefer to be given that the actual war was elsewhere). He is a bit naive in the world of love, and when he falls for a young married Englishwoman there, he believes it is forever. Over the years he cannot get her or her son (clearly his son) out of his mind. Twice he travels to India to find his lover and his son, the second time with his understanding wife. With this kind of single-minded focus, though, can this man ever find peace?

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