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Description Doris Lessing - Prisons We Choose to Live Inside
The celebrated author explores new ways to view ourselves and the society we live in, and gives us fresh answers to such enduring questions as how to think for ourselves and understand what we know.
Many of Lessing's (Shikasta; The Good Terrorist, etc.) novels have dealt with the particular confusions and complexities of modern life. In these brief essays, originally lectures, she confronts the greatest confusion of all - that with all the wondrous leaps of scientific and psychological knowledge since the Enlightenment, we still manage to blunder into the same paths of error as always. We all just take ourselves too seriously, Lessing argues, from the early rash of idealistic passion - "group lunacy" - to later years when we frown on the upcoming generations of raving lunatics. Lessing believes that we must infuse public life with some laughter. "Laughter is a very powerful thing, and only the most civilized, the liberated, the free person can laugh at herself, himself." There is a law of society at work in this world, she says: "It is this: the people at the top of a government, a department, a ministry, or any institution of government or administration never know what goes on at the lower levels." Lessing gives examples of the individual giving in to the group (as well-known as the famed Milgram "torture" experiment or as obscure as her own experiment in submitting manuscripts to her longtime publisher under a pen name, only to have them turned down). But at times her argument is muddled, as when she argues that it is bull-headed of the majority to so passionately resist an idea: after all, "today's treason is tomorrow's orthodoxy." In the end, she has nothing more to hang her hat on than the "individual" - who has already reigned as a hero of sorts in the Western world for two centuries. (Kirkus Reviews).