The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog

The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog

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by Doris Lessing

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Dann is grown up now, hunting for knowledge and despondent over the inadequacies of his civilization. With his trusted companions—Mara's daughter, his hope for the future; the abandoned child-soldier Griot, who discovers the meaning of love and the ability to sing stories; and the snow dog, a faithful friend who brings him back from the depths of


Dann is grown up now, hunting for knowledge and despondent over the inadequacies of his civilization. With his trusted companions—Mara's daughter, his hope for the future; the abandoned child-soldier Griot, who discovers the meaning of love and the ability to sing stories; and the snow dog, a faithful friend who brings him back from the depths of despair—Dann embarks on a strange and captivating adventure in a suddenly colder, more watery climate in the north.

Editorial Reviews

Rachel Hartigan Shea
Any novel about a depressed person, even one set in an imagined world, can be tedious at times. Lessing's Ifrik -- with its bands of emaciated and glassy-eyed refugees, its communities willfully blind to the calamities of war and drought that stalk them, its dearth of gentleness -- is the more compelling character here, one worth meeting as we ponder what our own climate change has in store for us.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
This sequel to Lessing's futuristic novel Mara and Dann continues the saga of Dann, the refugee boy prince of the Mahondi, who searched with his older sister Mara for habitable land on a planet Earth beset by a new ice age. Several characters from that novel reappear, including Griot, a soldier who served under Dann, but Mara has died in childbirth. Grief deafens General Dann to the pleas of those who believe he alone can save civilization from the warring chaos of displaced populations. Lessing's long literary career includes much science fiction (the Canopus in Argos series), but this dystopia, underscored by its reluctant hero's existential dilemma-why go on just to go on?-resembles a classical myth, albeit one with no gods to intervene. As Dann disastrously tries to assuage his grief with opium, loyal Griot raises an army and finds a repository of books that preserves the wisdom of lost civilizations. Less of an adventure story than its predecessor, this sequel requires patience through several repetitive passages devoted to Dann's refusal to act. But that is a small price to pay for Lessing's acute observations. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this sequel to Lessing's Mara and Dann, Dann is now a grown man instead of the four-year-old boy of royalty that readers met in the first saga. His initial exploits had him and older sister Mara looking for a place to exist on Earth after a major ice age has covered the planet. The continent where they reside is now known as Yerrup, and Dann has become a general commanding much respect and attention and has positioned himself as a leader in this futuristic world. Sadly, Mara has died in childbirth. As the world descends into chaos, Dann launches on a new adventure with a snow dog who instinctively pulls him back from the desolation and misery of his loss. Readers will be familiar with the many repeat characters appearing in this sequel, including Dann's loyal subordinate, Griot, who is busy rallying the troops. The battalion ultimately goes on to uncover a hidden library that may possess the secrets and wisdoms of lost worlds and long-gone civilizations. Unfortunately, this work is not as fully fleshed out as its predecessor. While its construct is steeped in the oral storytelling tradition, the language is often repetitive. Fans of Lessing will read this title, but many reader may be confused by the meandering passages. For urban public libraries only.-Christopher Korenowsky, New Albany Lib., Columbus Metropolitan Lib. Syst., OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sequel to Mara and Dann (1999), this book employs a similar terse narrative style, appropriate to people who for centuries have been adrift in a world of primitive technology and thought and violent social structures. This story of a wounded visionary leader, General Dann, his pragmatic second in command, Griot, his orphaned niece Tamar, and the loyal half-wild dog who guards and adores them, is set in a distant dystopian future, when "Yerrup" is covered with sheets of crumbling ice, and warring migratory peoples restlessly cross the parched continent of "Ifrik." To anyone accustomed to the moral complexity of, for example, Lessing's African Stories, this sober fantasy will seem to lack subtlety. In fact, all Lessing's work shows an identical commitment to revealing how power arises and informs relationships, and how the racial and sexual become the social and political. When Lessing choses to dispense with subtlety, as she does here, the mechanisms of leadership and loyalty, and love and possession, stand out with a sometimes painfully didactic clarity. Dann's adversary, a schemer named Kira, who is raising an army of malcontents, and by whom Dann has fathered a disagreeable child, is a quintessential Lessing villain: quarrelsome, greedy for attention, unprincipled in securing an advantage and careless of the well-being of anyone less powerful. She is thus emblematic of the narrowly self-serving behavior that has led to the collapse of technology and culture. Haunting the ruined repositiories of books left millennia ago, struggling to understand the scope of what has been lost, Dann has a sorrowful awareness that civilizations crumble "over and over again. Never mind about the Ice, wedon't even need that. We can destroy everything without that. Again and again." Although this is a startling insight for a backward age, it will not strike readers of our era as a revelation. It is Lessing's ability to summarize a complex behavior in a sentence rather than the haphazard plot that compels our interest here.
“Exquisitely told.”
Calgary Herald
Providence Journal
“A fascinating story by a brilliant writer... Lessing’s prose is straightforward, uncomplicated and clear. Her characters are complex and vivid.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Exquisite prose . . . [Lessing] has imagined a world unlike any other in science-fiction literature.”

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Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog

A Novel
By Doris Lessing

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Doris Lessing
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006053012X

Chapter One

A slight move to one side or the other -- a mere hand's breadth -- and Dann must fall.

He lay stretched, like a diver, and his fingers curled over an extremity of crumbling black rock, the tip of a shelf whose underside had been blasted away by wind and water, and which from a distance looked like a dark finger pointing at the cataract pouring over an edge of black rocks to become, at once, mists and spray that whirled and shifted, hypnotising him with movement: a cliff of thundering white. He was deaf with the noise, and fancied he heard voices calling to him from the thunder, though he knew they were the cries of seabirds. Lengths of white falling water filled all that side of his vision, and then if he shifted his gaze to look ahead, lifting his head from his arm, far away across the gulf he was poised above, those low clouds were snow and ice. White, white on white, and he was breathing a fresh sea air that cleared his lungs of the dull damp smell of the Centre. It was only when he left the Centre and its marshy edges he realised how he hated the smell of the place, and the look of the marshy land, all greys and drab greens and the flat gleam of water. He came here as much for the fresh lively smell as for the swirling movement that filled him with energy. White, and black, and above him the blue of a cold sky. But if he shifted to the very tip of the spit of rock, letting his arms dangle on either side of it, and looked down, far below there was the glint and glide of water, made blue by the sky.

This tip of rock could crumble and fall and he with it: the thought exhilarated him.

That water pouring over the rocks, he knew it; he had been swimming in the sea only a day ago. Salt and cold and strong it was, and the sea far below there was salty and cold but not so strong because of the water that was gushing everywhere from the snow and ice that began where the fall of sea water ended. The water down there was sea water diluted. Yet he saw the seabirds come from the waves to the rocky barrier and let themselves float down to the other sea, the low sea down there, so it was sea enough for them. And how did fish get down from the dangerous salty ocean to that other low sea? he had wondered, thinking that surely fish brought by the waves to the edge of the ocean and the rocks, and dashed over to fall in the white cascades, could not survive such a long gasping whirling descent. But whether they did or not, there was another way fish arrived in the lower sea. The falling masses of water span off foam, masses of it, in clumps many times the size of Dann. And in those clumps travelled fish.

Now the booming of the water was augmented by a loud crashing: he knew what that was. A boulder was being dislodged from the rocky crest and was bounding down, invisible to him behind the white mists, bouncing off hidden projections, and would land out of sight down there, in the water of this end of the Middle Sea. He knew that this chasm, this cleft, so enormous he could easily think it endless, had been a sea. He had known it on the old maps and globes in Chelops. At the Farm he had even tried to copy what was in his mind, on a globe that had drawn on it the Middle Sea, with below, Ifrik, and above it the ice masses of Yerrup, white all the way up to an edge of blue. He had stretched white leather from a goat over a frame of twigs. It was rough, but on it he and Mara had recreated that old Mahondi globe. Ahead, where he stared, more imagined than seen, because he knew it was there, were the regions of the Ice. And it was melting. It was melting into the ocean, and falling down the sides of the Middle Sea to where the sea was, at its bottom. All along a cliffy edge too vast for him to take in, ice water was pouring down into the sea there. So how long would it take to fill? He knew that once it had been full, and the surface of Middle Sea was not far below where he was now. Dann tried to imagine this great hole full of water, a sea almost at the level of the Western Sea -- tried, but it was no good. So insistent and present was what he saw -- the steep dark sides of the chasm going down to the present Middle Sea, streaked with grass and vegetation.

For weeks he had come to lie here, drawn by the fascination of the place, watching the thundering fall of water, listening, letting his lungs fill with clean salty air. He had looked around and across and down, and wondered about the lower sea. But now he didn't wonder, he knew: he had been down there himself.

During those weeks somebody watching the young man, who was more of a youth, slight, light and from a distance easily mistaken for a bird, must have wondered at his carelessness in that dangerous place. Gusts and swirls of wind came with the mists, and the spray and clumps of foam, but he did not attempt caution -- he might sit up, or even dangle his legs over the edge, and stretch out his arms. Was he welcoming the blast that could take him over? And then that was what happened: he was lifted and flung down, landing on a long slippery slope of rock and sliding down it . . .


Excerpted from Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog by Doris Lessing Copyright © 2006 by Doris Lessing. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

London, England
Date of Birth:
October 22, 1919
Place of Birth:
Persia (now Iran)

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Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Roseheart and bluefire fell asleep
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"With what?" -arrow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He laid down and slept, shivering.