Friday, October 12, 2007

Doris Lessing

I’ve only read one short story by Doris Lessing, this year’s recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature. It was a powerful story that affected me deeply. That story is “To Room Nineteen,” a story about communication in a marriage. I should say the lack of communication, and the alienation and death it leads to. I recall that when I read “The Hours” a few years ago, the awful foreboding and suspense were at one point heightened because I had read “To Room Nineteen.” In “The Hours” a woman in a marriage much like the marriage in “To Room Nineteen” goes to a downtown hotel and checks in to room nineteen. As I recall, it was decorated much like the room in Lessing’s story. Although the woman in the “The Hours” ultimately does not commit suicide, the suspense is heightened because of my knowledge of Lessing’s story.

I think complete understanding of another human being in a relationship is impossible. We want it to happen, but it does not. We can only try imperfectly to understand the other. We must be ever vigilant, but realize that we never completely succeed. Conrad was right when he had Marlow say in “heart of Darkness,” “No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence -- that which makes its truth; its meaning -- its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible; we live, as we dream -- alone.”

If Lessing’s other writings rise to the level of “To Room Nineteen” I must read more of her work.

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