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Storiesby Doris Lessing
Synopses & Reviews
A MAN AND woman walked towards the boulevard from a little hotel in a side street.
The trees were still leafless, black, cold; but the fine twigs were swelling towards spring, so that looking upward it was with an expectation of the first glimmering greenness. Yet everything was calm, and the sky was a calm, classic blue.
The couple drifted slowly along. Effort, after days of laziness, seemed impossible; and almost at once they turned into a cafe´ and sank down, as if exhausted, in the glass-walled space that was thrust forward into the street.
The place was empty. People were seeking the midday meal in the restaurants. Not all: that morning crowds had been demonstrating, a procession had just passed, and its straggling end could still be seen. The sounds of violence, shouted slogans and singing, no longer absorbed the din of Paris traffic; but it was these sounds that had roused the couple from sleep.
A waiter leaned at the door, looking after the crowds, and he reluctantly took an order for coffee.
The man yawned; the woman caught the infection; and they laughed with an affectation of guilt and exchanged glances before their eyes, without regret, parted. When the coffee came, it remained untouched. Neither spoke. After some time the woman yawned again; and this time the man turned and looked at her critically, and she looked back. Desire asleep, they looked. This remained: that while everything which drove them slept, they accepted from each other a sad irony; they could look at each other without illusion, steady-eyed.
And then, inevitably, the sadness deepened in her till she consciously resisted it; and into him came the flicker of cruelty.
‘Your nose needs powdering, ' he said.
‘You need a whipping boy.'
But always he refused to feel sad. She shrugged, and, leaving him to it, turned to look out. So did he. At the far end of the boulevard there was a faint agitation, like stirred ants, and she heard him mutter, ‘Yes, and it still goes on . . .'
Mocking, she said, ‘Nothing changes, everything always the same . . .’
But he had flushed. ‘I remember, ' he began, in a different voice. He stopped, and she did not press him, for he was gazing at the distant demonstrators with a bitterly nostalgic face.
Outside drifted the lovers, the married couples, the students, the old people. There the stark trees; there the blue, quiet sky. In a month the trees would be vivid green; the sun would pour down heat; the people would be brown, laughing, bare-limbed. No, no, she said to herself, at this vision of activity. Better the static sadness. And, all at once, unhappiness welled up in her, catching her throat, and she was back fifteen years in another country. She stood in blazing tropical moonlight, stretching her arms to a landscape that offered her nothing but silence; and then she was running down a path where small stones glinted sharp underfoot, till at last she fell spent in a swath of glistening grass. Fifteen years.
It was at this moment that the man turned abruptly and called the waiter and ordered wine.
‘What, ' she said humorously, ‘already?'
For the moment she loved him completely and maternally, till she suppressed the counterfeit and watched him wait, fidgeting, for the wine, pour it, and th
Collects all of the acclaimed writer's stories, except those which deal with life in Africa, presenting intact a major aspect of her work
Doris Lessing was born in 1919. The author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Grass Is Singing and The Golden Notebook, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007. She lives in England.
Margaret Drabble, the author of several works of fiction, including The Millstone, The Witch of Exmoor, and The Red Queen, and of nonfiction, lives in London.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
\Doris Lessing was born of British parents in Persia, in 1919, and moved with her family to Southern Rhodesia when she was five years old. She went to England in 1949 and has lived there ever since. She is the author of more than thirty books—novels, stories, reportage, poems, and plays. In 2007, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Table of Contents
The habit of loving — The woman — Through the tunnel — Pleasure — The witness — The day Stalin died — Wine — He — The eye of God in paradise — The other woman — One off the short list — A woman on a roof — How I finally lost my heart — A man and two women — A room — England versus England — Two potters — Between men — Our friend Judith — Each other — Homage for Isaac Babel — Outside the ministry — Dialogue — Notes for a case history — To Room Nineteen — An old woman and her cat — Side benefits of an honourable profession — A year in Regent's Park — Report on the threatened city — Mrs. Fortescue — An unposted love letter — Lions, leaves, roses-- — Not a very nice story — The other garden — The temptation of Jack Orkney.
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