When I was at university I fell in love with my English professor.
He was teaching The Twentieth Century novel, in particular the novels of D.H. Lawrence.
My classes were in the morning and in the afternoon I would lie on my bed in the dorm and read Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow and Women in Love.
My room-mates, who were studying the sciences would pass by and ask me what I was doing.
“Studying,” I would say.
In reality I was dreaming of love.
Mr. O’Hara, my English professor, looked nothing like D.H. Lawrence yet I melded him with Lawrence and the romance of his novels.
Doris Lessing had great admiration for Lawrence as writer: “Pick up a Lawrence tale and the old magic begins working”. For her Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow were unassailable. (Time Bites)
Just look at the acknowledgements in her novel love, again:
D. H. Lawrence, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edward Thomas, Publilius Syrus, Byron, Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Louis MacNeice, Plautus, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Ecclesiastes, T. S. Eliot, Sappho, Bob Dylan, Francois Villon, John Vanbrugh, Aphra Behn, John Dryden, Andrew Marvell, Cecil Spring Rice, Archbishop Whately of Dublin, Harry Graham.
And now I am again reading about love.
love, again centers around a 63-year-old woman who falls in love.
Here Stephen tells Sarah “I met this woman. She was an Indian woman. Older than I was. And it was there…we knew each other at once. You have to trust in this kind of thing. If you don’t, you are denying the best part of life. You and I have something of the kind –well, we know that. It has nothing to do with age, or sex, or colour, or anything of that sort.” Of course, Lessing’s novels were not just about love. She was known for her novels about her social and political struggles, psychological thrillers and science fiction.
Lessing was born in Iran to English parents and raised in Southern Rhodesia.
In her essay A book that changed me, Lessing wrote:
I do not believe that one can be changed by a book (or by a person unless there is already something present, latent or in embryo, ready to be changed…So I have settled for The Sufis by Idries Shah, as the book that had an immediate impact…I continue to find the book full of information, revelation, a mine of thoughts and ideas. I reread it from time to time and always find something new, which can only be said about ‘real’ books.
The notion of ‘real’ book was important to Lessing as again she wrote in the essay titled ‘What novel or novels prompted your own political awakening?‘
Few novels written to a formula have any life. That is because real novels are written from the solar plexus.
Perhaps it was because of her adherence to Sufism that
“As she climbed slowly out of the taxi with her shopping, her grey bun coming down as usual, Doris Lessing noticed that the front garden was full of photographers. They told her she had won the 2007 Nobel Prize for literature. She said, “Oh, Christ.” (The Economist)
Photographer: Martin Argles