Saturday, December 01, 2007

Doris Lessing...the war and the memory never finish

Doris Lessing is angry. In October of 2007 she won the Nobel Prize for Literature, on the following day she had her 88th birthday but she is still feeling angry. She has just finished a book about the war and her parents. Through her writing her memory has been envoked and now she feels full of rage and courage. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper "El país" she explains why.
We had the extraordinary opportunity to drink a cup of tea with Doris Lessing, the night before her birthday. She had a cold, she was worried about the bad mood of her cat and she explained to us that she had already finished a book about the war and her parents, "a book of rage and courage". Her house is an isolated area of peace; we are surrounded by books and now she reads a lot about the Spanish Civil War, an episode which filled her generation with anger an interest.

How are you feeling after all the bustle of the Nobel?
Are you asking me seriously?
Well… I cough all the time, I have a light diarrhea and cystitis.
Aside from all this I am feeling very well, thank you.
All my symptoms are because of stress, the stress of the Nobel.
The doorbell is ringing all day long, everyone wants to see me, the phone does not stop ringing, it is like this all day, everyday. And the cat is annoyed, don’t you see it?

Lessing lives this sudden interest with the indifference of someone observing their fame; she knows that this popularity is volatile.

You have always cautioned people about the perversions of the mass media: journalism, television and all that surrounds us everyday…
Yes, and I am still cautioning. Anyway the mass media and the journalist are two different topics. Furthermore, now we have the internet which has introduced a new type of culture, one which we accept without truly understanding.
And the television, just look at the television. Television has changed the way of thinking of everybody although we do not really know why.
I have seen the television come into a house where once all there was, was the radio, where the people used to sit together every night to talk, to eat, be together, etc…In those days our lifestyles were more simple, more healthy, more natural… and then came the television and interrupted all this culture and way of life.
That was the end of the conversation, of the joviality and of the coexistence…

And in which culture do we live now?
Family life has changed. As you know most of our women work and when they come home although they are exhausted, they still have their work at home to do… preparing meals, cleaning the house etc. .
We do not read to our children anymore because we are too tired … all this is new…

And how do you see England now?
People have now a lot of money … if you go to Leicester Square you will see that it is completely full. At midnight or even early in the morning there are still young people wanting to have fun. That is new in this country. I do not believe that this is going to last… Hmmmm, we will see.

How do you feel inside when you write about the war?
I am angry and somehow I can not take this anger out of me.

Is literature not helping?
The anger is still there and I do not know why. I feel the same as my father felt, rage, rage that something like that could happen. We had to fight the Second World War but the First was completely unnecessary…

When you were a child you ate oranges while you were reading. You were also a dreamer.
And I still am a dreamer but now I do not eat oranges anymore. I am too old to eat oranges now. That happens when we get old: I do not eat this, I do not eat that…. But I still read a lot and dream.

Do you remember your dreams?
Of course and as a writer it is normal that I use them.
Now you have a lot to celebrate, but about what are you especially happy?
I have a situation in my life about which I do not even speak. I have an invalid son of whom I have to take care. So my life
is not really what I expected. I can not talk about it. My life is not my life anymore.

What are you going to do for your birthday?
Nothing. I will think about this kind of thing when I get to 90.
Oh my God! The telephone is ringing again!

El Pais, 21st October 2007. Interview by Juan Guz

Translated and compiled by Vanessa Lafarga Kärnä
Galway Public Libraries

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