Landlocked (Children of Violence Series #4)

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Overview

In the aftermath of World War II, Martha Quest finds herself completely disillusioned. She is losing faith with the communist movement in Africa, and her marriage to one of the movement's leaders is disintegrating. Determined to resist the erosion of her personality, she engages in the first satisfactory love affair and breaks free, if only momentarily, from her suffocating unhappiness.

Landlocked is the fourth novel of Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence sequence of ...

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Landlocked (Children of Violence Series #4)

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Overview

In the aftermath of World War II, Martha Quest finds herself completely disillusioned. She is losing faith with the communist movement in Africa, and her marriage to one of the movement's leaders is disintegrating. Determined to resist the erosion of her personality, she engages in the first satisfactory love affair and breaks free, if only momentarily, from her suffocating unhappiness.

Landlocked is the fourth novel of Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence sequence of novels, each a masterpiece in its own right, and collectively an incisive, all encompassing vision of our world in the twentiethcentury.

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Editorial Reviews

Milwaukee Journal
This work will rank with the foremost fictional commentaries on events in our century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060976651
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Series: Children of Violence Series , #4
  • Edition description: 1st HarperPerennial ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Doris  Lessing
Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature, Doris Lessing was one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of our time, the recipient of a host of international awards, including the Somerset Maugham Award, the David Cohen Memorial Prize for British Literature, the James Tait Black Prize for best biography, Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize and Prix Catalunya, and the S. T. Dupont Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature.

Biography

"Doris Lessing is the kind of writer who has followers, not just readers," Lesley Hazleton once observed. But the Nobel Prize-winning Lessing, whose classic novel The Golden Notebook was embraced as a feminist icon, has seldom told her followers exactly what they wanted to hear. For much of her career, she has frustrated readers' expectations and thwarted would-be experts on her work, penning everything from traditional narratives to postmodern novels to mystic fables.

Lessing was born in Persia (now Iran) and grew up in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where her father made an unsuccessful attempt to farm maize. Though she loved living on the farm, her family life was often tense and unhappy. Lessing married at the age of 20, but three years later, feeling stifled by colonial life and increasingly distressed by the racism of her society, she joined the Communist Party, "because they were the only people I had ever met who fought the color bar in their lives."

Soon after that, she left her husband and first two children to marry fellow Communist Gottfried Lessing, with whom she had a son. They divorced, and she took her son with her to England, where she published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, to high acclaim. After several more novels, including the semi-autobiographical series Children of Violence, Lessing wrote The Golden Notebook, a postmodern, fragmentary narrative about a writer's search for identity. The Golden Notebook gained a passionate following in the feminist movement and "left its mark upon the ideas and feelings of a whole generation of women," as Elizabeth Hardwick wrote.

To Lessing's dismay, she was frequently cited as a "feminist writer" after that. Yet as Diane Johnson pointed out in a 1978 review of Stories, Lessing "also understands men, politics, social class, striving, religion, loneliness and lust." Johnson added: "Mrs. Lessing is the great realist writer of our time, in the tradition of the major Continental novelists of the 19th century, particularly Stendhal and Balzac, but also Turgenev and Chekhov -- a masculine tradition with which she shares large moral concerns, an earnest and affirmative view of human nature, and a dead-eye for social types."

But Lessing, who once called realist fiction "the highest form of prose writing," soon launched into a science-fiction series, Canopus in Argos: Archives, which baffled many of her fans. Lessing used the term "space fiction" for the series, which recounts human history from the points of view of various extraterrestrial beings. Though Lessing gained some new readers with her Canopus series, her early admirers were relieved when she came back to Earth in The Fifth Child, the story of a monstrous child born to ordinary suburban parents, which Carolyn Kizer deemed "a minor classic." Later novels like Mara and Dann included elements of fantasy and science fiction, but recently, with the publication of The Sweetest Dream, Lessing has returned to domestic fiction in the realist mode, which many critics still see as her best form.

Throughout her life, Lessing has been drawn to systems for improving human experience -- first Marxism, then the psychiatry of R. D. Laing, then Sufi mysticism. But her yearning for a single, transcendent truth coexists with a sharp awareness of the contradictory mix of vanities, passions, and aggressions that make up most human lives. As Margaret Drabble noted, Lessing is "one of the very few novelists who have refused to believe that the world is too complicated to understand."

Good To Know

Lessing's African stories painted a grim picture of white colonialism and the oppression of black Africans, and in 1956, Lessing was declared a prohibited alien in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. In 1995, she was able to visit her daughter and grandchildren in South Africa, where her works are now acclaimed for the same content that was once condemned.

Though she was briefly allied with the Communist Party in Salisbury, Lessing has frequently insisted that the picture of her as a political activist is exaggerated. "I am always being described as having views that I never had in my life," she once told the Guardian. She has, however, been an outspoken critic of the racial politics of South Africa, and she once turned down the chance to become a Dame of the British Empire on the grounds that there is no British Empire.

To demonstrate how difficult it is for new writers to get published, Lessing sent a manuscript to her publishers under the pseudonym Jane Somers. Her British publisher turned it down, as did several other prominent publishers (though her American editor detected the ruse and accepted the book). The Diary of a Good Neighbour was published as the work of Jane Somers, to little fanfare and mixed critical reviews. Lessing followed it with a sequel, If the Old Could..., before revealing her identity as the author of both.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Doris May Tayler (birth name), Jane Somers (pseudonym)
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 22, 1919
    2. Place of Birth:
      Persia (now Iran)
    1. Date of Death:
      November 17, 2013
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



The afternoon sun was hot on Martha's back, but not steadily so: she had become conscious of a pattern varying in impact some minutes ago, at the start of a telephone conversation that seemed as if it might very well go on for hours yet. Mrs Buss, the departing senior secretary, had telephoned for the fourth time that day to remind Martha, her probable successor, of things that must be done by any secretary of Mr Robinson, for the comfort and greater efficiency of Mr Robinson. Or rather, that is what she said, and possibly even thought, the telephone calls were for. In fact they expressed her doubt (quite justified, Martha thought) that Martha was equipped to be anybody's secretary, and particularly Mr Robinson's -- who had been spoiled (as Martha saw it), looked after properly (as Mrs Buss saw it), for five years of Mrs Buss's life.

Mrs Buss said: 'And don't forget the invoice on Fridays,' and so on; while Martha, fully prepared to be conscientious within the limits she had set for herself, made notes of her duties on one, two, three, four sheets of foolscap. Meanwhile she studied the burning or warm or glowing sensation on her back. The window was two yards behind her, and it had a greenish 'folkweave' curtain whose edge, or rather, the shadow of whose edge, chanced to strike Martha's shoulder and her hip. At first had chanced -- Martha was now carefully maintaining an exact position. Areas of flesh glowed with chill, or tingled with it: behind heat, behind cold, was an interior glow, as if they were the same. Heat burned through the glass on to blade and buttock; the cool of the shadow burned too, But there was not only contrastbetween hot heat and hot chill (cold cold and cold heat?); there were subsidiary minor lines, felt as strokes of tepid sensation, where the shadow of the window frame cut diagonally, And, since the patches and angles of sunlight fell into the office for half of its depth, and had been so falling for three hours, everything was warmed -- floors, desks, filing cabinets flung off heat; and Martha stood, not only directly branded by sunlight and by shadow, her flesh stinging precisely in patterns, but warmed through by a general irradiation. Which, however, was getting too much of a good thing. 'Actually,' she said to Mrs Buss, 'I ought to be thinking of locking up.' This was a mistake; it sounded like over-eagerness to be done with work, and earned an immediate extension of the lecture she was getting. She ought to have said: 'I think Mr Robinson wants to make a call.'

At this moment Mr Robinson did in fact put his head out of his office and frown at Martha who was still on the telephone. He instantly vanished, leaving a sense of reproach. Martha just had time to offer him the beginnings of a placatory smile of which she was ashamed. She was not going to be Mr Robinson's secretary, and she ought to have told him so before this,

She should have made up her mind finally weeks ago, and, having made up her mind, told him. She had not, because of her tendency -- getting worse -- to let things slide, to let things happen. It had needed only this: that she should walk into Mr Robinson's office and say, pleasantly, absentmindedly almost, 'I'm sorry, Mr Robinson, I've decided it would be better if I weren't your secretary.' At which he would nod, say: 'Of course, Mrs Hesse, think no more about it.'

This unreal conversation was why Martha had not in fact gone in before now to make her stand on a refusal; and why she had spent so much of her time in the last week or so marvelling at the complexities behind such a simple act.

Mrs Buss's husband had decided to take a job on the Copper Belt. Mrs Buss did not want to leave this job which fitted her soul like a glove, but being nothing if not an expert on what was right, knew it was right to follow her husband wheresoever he would go. Although she was not married to her husband but to her work, or rather, to her boss - for the past five years, Mr Robinson. This did not mean, far from it, that her relation with Mr Robinson was anything it should not be; her duty was to the idea of what was right from a secretary. In the Copper Belt, she would, after an agitated fortnight or so of writing letters to Martha telling her how to look after Mr Robinson, transfer herself to her new boss, whoever he was, and around him henceforward her life, her time, her being, would revolve.

As for Mr Robinson, he understood not the first thing about this phenomenon over which Martha pondered still, after years of working beside it.

What would he say, for instance, if Martha told him: Mr Robinson, did you know that Mrs Buss tells Mr Buss, on the nights when her shorthand book is full: 'You know I can't tonight, I've got two memorandums and a company agreement to type tomorrow morning.' And Mr Buss understood his position in her life so well, that he knew (as Mrs Buss said, with a nod of satisfaction) where he got off. What would Mr Robinson say if told that Mrs Buss went to bed early refusing sundowners, the pictures, a dance, anything at all, on the nights before -- an audit, a big court case where Mr Robinson would have to appear, or even a particularly heavy mail?

Well, Martha could not conceive of telling him, he simply would not believe it. He would go crimson, she knew that; the lean 'likeable' lawyer's face would grow sulky while the blood darkened it. Because, of course, he would not understand how impersonal this passion was, and that, from two weeks' time, in Lusaka, Mr Buss would be 'told where he got off' just as strongly but in relation to another job, another boss.

The door flung open again, and again Mr Robinson appeared, this time showing annoyance. Martha covered the mouthpiece, saying, 'It's Mrs Buss,' relieved that Mrs Buss was definitely 'office work'.

'Does she want to speak to me?'

'Do you want to speak to Mr Robinson?'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2012

    Compelling

    Read the children of viilence series and be changed.

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