Prisons We Choose to Live inside (Cornelia & Michael Bessie Books)

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9780060390778: Prisons We Choose to Live inside (Cornelia & Michael Bessie Books)

In this perceptive series of lectures Doris Lessing explores the strange phenomenon that although, today, we know a lot more about ourselves very little of this knowledge has been put into practical effect. Why is it that human beings continue to make the same mistakes? A fascinating combination of the 'soft sciences' - i.e. sociology, psychology, anthropology - and hard fact is used to address such topics as brainwashing group mentality and the awesome power of words. There is nothing dauntingly academic or esoteric in these discussions of events from history, recent politics and personal experience - Stalinism, the miners' strike, the Saatchi & Saatchi Tory advertising campaign and her reception in the literary world as Jane Somers - enable Lessing to write accessibly and lucidly about these concepts. This original and important work underlines the necessity to retain an independent frame of mind, to fight received opinion and to resist the general drift into apathy. The freedom of the individual is vital to democracy because it is only by permitting individuals to question and disagree that tyranny and ignorance will be defeated. It is essential that we 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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From the Back Cover:

'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'

About the Author:

Doris Lessing has been called 'the greatest living English woman novelist' (Independent). Among her outstanding works are The Grass is Singing, the five-volume Children of Violence series, The Golden Notebook, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, The Summer Before the Dark and the magnificent Canopus in Argus series. Her most recent novel, The Good Terrorist, was shortlisted for the 1985 Booker Prize and won the W.H. Smith Literary Award. Many of her short stories have been collected in two volumes entitled To Room Nineteen and The Temptation of Jack Orkney.

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