Ben, in the World

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9780006552291: Ben, in the World

From Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the sequel to one of her most celebrated novels, ‘The Fifth Child’.

‘The Fifth Child’, Doris Lessing’s 1988 novel, made a powerful impact on publication. Its account of idyllic marital and parental bliss shattered by the arrival of the feral fifth child of the Lovatts made for unnerving and compulsive reading. That child, Ben, is the central character of this sequel, which picks up the fable at the end of his childhood and takes our primal, misunderstood, maladjusted teenager out into the world. He meets mostly with mockery, fear and incomprehension, but with just enough kindness and openness to keep him afloat as his adventures take him from London to the south of France and on to South America in his restless quest for community, companionship and peace.

Lessing employs a plain, unadorned prose fit for fables; again, we have a childlike perspective at the heart of the book; again, the world in all its malevolence and misapprehension swirls around at the edge, while, occasionally, a strong character steps forward to try to set a good example.

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Product Description:

Paperback. Pub Date :2001-04-02 Pages: 192 Language: English Publisher: HarperCollins UK From Doris Lessing. winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. the sequel to one of her most celebrated novels. 'The Fifth Child' 'The. Fifth Child '. Doris Lessing's 1988 novel. made a powerful impact on publication.Its account of idyllic marital and parental bliss shattered by the arrival of the feral fifth child of the Lovatts made for unnerving and compulsive reading.That child. Ben. is the central character of this sequel. which picks up the fable at the end of his childhood and takes our primal. misunderstood. maladjusted teenager out into the world.He meets mostly with mockery. fear and incomprehension. but with just enough kindness and openness to keep him afloat as his adventures take him from London to the south of France and on to South America in his restless quest for communi...

Review:

Described as "one of the world's great living writers', Doris Lessing's fiction continues to compel, and surprise, her readers. In the context of Lessing's writing career, the tale of Ben, in the World, the sequel to Lessing's powerful The Fifth Child (1988), is a long, and complex, one. It goes back (at least) to 1957, and the appearance of her short story, "The eye of God in paradise" (included in The Habit of Loving). That story includes the description of a child, "a desperate, wild, suffering little creature", who bites if you get close to him. That child haunts both Mary Parrish (the protagonist of the story) and, it seems, Doris Lessing. She returns to him in The Fifth Child, a short novel dedicated to the problem of how to tell the difference of "Ben": the fifth child born to an idyllic middle-class family. Who, or what, is Ben? Beast, goblin, throwback, alien, or a "normal healthy fine baby"? Wrestling with that question--the ethical difficulty posed by the appearance of difference at the heart of "normal" life-- The Fifth Child allows for a hesitation in knowing what, or how, to think about Ben. Ben, in the World pursues the theme, but with far more certainty. Now eighteen, but looking thirty-five, Ben is estranged from his family, forced to find his way in a basically hostile world: "And Ben left: he had no home in this world." By now, Lessing knows him well; the narrative voice constantly intervenes to direct the reader's response to Ben, to the people who surround him and his (sometimes unlikely) experiences in Europe and South America. The misery, and alienation, of Ben's life remains Lessing's preoccupation, offset only by the friendship of the odd individuals she depicts so skilfully--and, finally, the waywardness of Ben's quest to find people like himself. Vicky Lebeau

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