The companion to a series of lectures given by Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, in which she addresses some of the most important questions facing us today.
‘This is a time when it is frightening to be alive, when it is hard to think of human beings as rational creatures. Everywhere we look we see brutality, stupidity, until it seems that there is nothing else to be seen but that – a descent into barbarism, everywhere, which we are unable to check. But I think that while it is true there is a general worsening, it is precisely because things are so frightening we become hypnotized, and do not notice – or if we notice, belittle – equally strong forces on the other side, the forces, in short, of reason, sanity and civilization …’
In this published version of a series of perceptive and thought-provoking lectures, Lessing stresses the importance of independent thought, of questioning received opinion and fighting the lure of apathy. She argues that only if we are free to interrogate authority and disagree that despotism and ignorance can be defeated. We must examine 'ideas, from whatever source they come, to see how they may usefully contribute to our lives and to the societies we live in’.
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'Prisons We Choose to Live Inside' is a collection of six remarkable lectures in which Doris Lessing explores the thesis that we are ‘dominated by our savage past, as individuals and as groups.’ Drawing liberally from history, politics and literature, she demonstrates how this ‘innate primitivism’ has manifested itself throughout the ages, as war fever, mindless brutality, racism, and religious and political fervour – all fuelled by rhetoric and the language of ideology. Despite the extraordinary advances made in the social sciences, thus equipping us more than ever before with the means to analyse, predict and defuse our self-destructive behaviour, we are still unable to control our barbaric instincts and escape from the prison of our human nature.
An incisive and passionately-argued polemic, highlighting many of the themes at work in Doris Lessing’s novels, 'Prisons We Choose to Live Inside' is both a superb introduction to the thought of one on this century’s most influential writers and a brilliant dissection of the irrationalities and foibles of mankind.
‘I think when people look back at our time, they will be annoyed at one thing more than any other. It is this – that we do know more about ourselves now than people did in the past, but that very little of this knowledge has been put into effect… people to come will marvel at it, as we marvel at the blindness an inflexibility of our ancestors.’
DORIS LESSING, from 'When in the Future They Look Back on Us'
‘A major figure in twentieth-century literature, Doris Lessing’s labours and prodigious output have helped to change the way we see ourselves.’
MICHÈLE ROBERTS, 'New Statesman'
Doris Lessing is one of the most important writers of the twentieth century and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007. Her first novel, 'The Grass is Singing', was published in 1950. Among her other celebrated novels are 'The Golden Notebook', 'The Fifth Child' and 'Memoirs of a Survivor'. She has also published two volumes of her autobiography, 'Under my Skin' and 'Walking in the Shade'. Her most recent novel is 'Alfred and Emily'.
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