Features & Business
"TIME BITES": Unique Essays
by Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing was unique in many ways - a girl who left school at the age of 14 and still could win almost all the European literary awards, got nominated for Man Booker several times, ultimately becoming the oldest recipient of #Nobel Prize at the age of 88!
She was undisputedly the best and most prolific of British female writers. Born in Persia (now Iran) to a World War 1 veteran father and his caring nurse who became his wife during the course of treatment, she shifted to #Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and finally to England where she wrote all of her great literary work. "Time bites" is a collection of essays written over a period of times and is amongst one of her finest works.
In this book, there is a lot of insight about people, places, ideologies, religions and Lessing herself. #Jane Austen and #D.H. Lawrence have been analysed and understood from a very different perspective and the fineness of their writing has been explained in such a way that the reader becomes mesmerised by the depth of their writing and #Lessing's understanding of it. And she had devoted a long chapter about #Virginia Woolf making fine commentary on her work as well as psychological study of the personality of Woolf and this is a masterpiece chapter of the book.
When reading about comments on the work and life of #Leo Tolstoy, I was pleasantly surprised by many aspects of his life that I was unaware of. Lessing has dissected Tolstoy and his times in an exceptional way including the sexual behaviour of the great Russian author.
There are many chapters in this book dedicated to many books and many authors. Reading about them ignites a desire to acquire and read them because they have been narrated and explained in such a wonderful way and that includes #Christina Stead, The fables of #Bidpai, #Guy Sajer and #George Meredith. Every article on them reflects class and authority of Doris Lessing and once the reader starts reading them, the analytical mind of Lessing overpowers the reader. The prose flows very smoothly.
The chapter on her own biography is not only interesting but is enlightening as well. It reflects the depth of her thinking and might be life changer for some of the readers. Lessing learnt directly from day to day life and was a voracious reader at some stage of her life; all this is obvious when one goes through these pages related to her autobiography. She has written very frankly and without any bias.
A good number of "read before you die" books have been commented upon and their background has been analysed in an impersonal but affectionate way. Books for her were, it appears, like babies to be provided with the ultimate care and nurturing. Among so many of her likings, books by #Idries Shah on #Sufism stand out and she has provided an in-depth narrative on some of his works and it all is heartwarming and indicative of the fact that Doris was a very serious reader too.
#Doris Lessing was part of African Leftist movement and there are chapters dedicated to people connected to left ideology, worth reading to understand the ideology. It appears that she later became a liberal socialist moving away from communism.
She spent her childhood and youth in Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe. In this book she has dedicated adequate space to people of Africa and the reader starts to understand, perhaps for the first time, what it is to be born in an African nation. The details of the ordinary life in Africa are emotional as well as eye opener, perhaps not written by anybody on any platform as compassionately as Lessing. Her anguish on the state of affairs in her past homeland #Zimbabwe is very much obvious and so is her anger and frustration with the dictator #Mugabe. For her, Zimbabwe was a paradise which got lost because of a megalomaniac despot and his coterie.
Cats play a very important roles in lives of many people and Doris, too, loved her cats. She has dedicated a full chapter to the behaviour and activities of her cats. It is full of affections and so makes interesting reading.
The paperback edition of this book is published by Harper Perennial which can be visited at:
It consists of 373 pages and is priced at Rs 295.