Synopses & Reviews
In the last years of his life, a contemplative Roman senator embarks on one last epic endeavor: to retell the history of human creation and reveal the little-known story of the Clefts, an ancient community of women living in an Edenic coastal wilderness. The Clefts have neither need nor knowledge of men; childbirth is controlled through the cycles of the moon, and they bear only female children. But with the unheralded birth of a strange new child a boy the harmony of their community is suddenly thrown into jeopardy.
In this fascinating and beguiling novel, Lessing confronts the themes that inspired much of her early writing: how men and women manage to live side by side in the world and how the troublesome particulars of gender affect every aspect of our existence.
"What an amazing book, bringing together as it does Lessing's radicalism, her feminism and her propensity for speculative fiction in a marvelous near-birthday gift from one of the great mothers of the contemporary novel." The Chicago Tribune
"[A]udacious....[A] mordantly entertaining fable rich in incident, discernment, and reflection." Booklist
"One of postcolonial fiction's brightest lights makes mythic the battle of the sexes....A dark parable, powerful yet baffling." Kirkus Reviews
"Lessing comes to no conclusions, but she does tell an interesting tale, one that is both cautionary and consistent with what we all know to be true we can't live with 'em and we can't live without 'em." The Baltimore Sun
"Ponderous prose, excessive detail, muddled narrative, and a disturbingly graphic obsession with genitals are among the many failings of The Cleft." Providence Journal
"The Cleft is not an easy read....But the book's main fantasy provides so much grist for speculation and reflection that it keeps the reader entranced." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
From Doris Lessing, "one of the most important writers of the past hundred years" (Times of London), comes a brilliant, darkly provocative alternative history of humankind's beginnings.
From Doris Lessing, "one of the most important writers of the past hundred years" (Times of London), comes a brilliant, darkly provocative alternative history of humankinds beginnings.
In the last years of his life, a Roman senator embarks on one final epic endeavor, a retelling of the history of human creation. The story he relates is the little-known saga of the Clefts, an ancient community of women with no knowledge of nor need for men. Childbirth was controlled through the cycles of the moon, and only female offspring were born—until the unanticipated event that jeopardized the harmony of their close-knit society: the strange, unheralded birth of a boy.
In this fascinating and beguiling novel, Lessing envisions a mythical society free from sexual intrigue, jealousy, and petty rivalries essentially, a society free from men. Lessing confronts the troublesome particulars of how gender affects every aspect of peoples existence.
About the Author
Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature for 2007, is oneof the most celebrated and distinguished writers of our time. She hasbeen awarded the David Cohen Memorial Prize for British Literature,Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize and Prix Catalunya, and the S.T. DupontGolden PEN Award for a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature,as well as a host of other international awards. She lives in north London. Lessing was born Doris May Taylor in Persia (now Iran) on October 22, 1919.Both of her parents were British: Her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Her mother installed Doris in a covenant school, and then later in an all-girls high school in the capital of Salisbury, from which she soon dropped out.She was 13, and it was the end of her formal education.
Lessing's life has been a challenge to her belief that people cannot resist the currents of their time, as she fought against the cultural and biological imperatives that fated her to sink without a murmur into marriage and motherhood.Lessing believes that she was freer than most people because she became a writer.For her, writing is a process of "setting a distance," taking the "raw, the individual, the uncriticized, the unexamined, into the realm of the general."
Lessing's fiction is deeply autobiographical, much of it emerging out of her experiences in Africa.Drawing upon her childhood memories and her serious engagement with politics and social concerns, Lessing has written about the clash of cultures, the gross injustices of racial inequality, the struggle among opposing elements within an individual's own personality, and the conflict between the individual conscience and the collective good.
Over the years, Lessing has attempted to accommodate what she admires in the novels of the 19th century -- their "climate of ethical judgment" -- to the demands of 20th-century ideas about consciousness and time.After writing the Children of Violence series (1952-1959), a formally conventional bildungsroman (novel of education) about the growth in consciousness of her heroine, Martha Quest, Lessing broke new ground with The Golden Notebook (1962), a daring narrative experiment in which the multiple selves of a contemporary woman are rendered in astonishing depth and detail.Anna Wolf, like Lessing herself, strives for ruthless honesty as she aims to free herself from the chaos, emotional numbness and hypocrisy afflicting her generation.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Lessing began to explore more fully the quasi-mystical insight Anna Wolf seems to reach by the end of The Golden Notebook.Her "inner-space fiction" deals with cosmic fantasies Briefing for a Descent into Hell, 1971), dreamscapes and other dimensions (Memoirs of a Survivor, 1974), and science-fiction probings of higher planes of existence (Canopus in Argos: Archives, 1979-1983).These reflect Lessing's interest, since the 1960s, in Idries Shah, whose writings on Sufi mysticism stress the evolution of consciousness and the belief that individual liberation can come about only if people understand the link between their own fates and the fate of society.
Lessing's other novels include The Good Terrorist (1985) and The Fifth Child (1988); she also published two novels under the pseudonym Jane Somers (The Diary of a Good Neighbor, 1983, and If the Old Could., 1984). In addition, she has written several nonfiction works, including books about cats, a love since childhood. Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949 wasjoined by Walking in the Shade: 1949 to 1962, both published by HarperCollins.