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I'm absolutely euphoric that Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature last week. Years ago, I saw the Canopus in Argos series in the Science Fiction section of what I refer to as "the library I grew up in", and I read the first couple of books. The first book, Re: Colonised Planet 5; Shikasta is fantastic. I don't know if I've ever read any other fiction book like it, let alone another science fiction book like it. The second book, The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five was somewhat over my head, in that it was told from the viewpoint of an adult woman and I was a teenaged boy, but even I could see its point.
Years passed before I decided to hunt down the other three books and add the series to my personal library. Each book in the series is markedly different from the others in tone, style, and message, but they all fit together and present a picture of the world that is encouraging and hopeful. Her books are patient with the reader, and more demonstrative than instructive. It's all allegory of course, but it's too easy to get caught up in trying to figure out what is supposed to be what, and lose track of what is happening. Getting to the end of the last book is to reach an epiphany. It all falls into place, though you may have to think about it for a while.
If I had to sum it all up, I'd say the point is this: "Those who would consider themselves our enemies, if treated with patience and compassion instead of enmity, will realize they are our equals and partners." To be more succint about it: "Don't fight, live." Yet, these books I have been praising are not even considered her most important works! That she has received one of the planet's premier accolades for writing and thinking presents a view of humanity that is as encouraging and hopeful as her books themselves.
(While doing some quick research, I discovered that Ms. Lessing had collaborated in the past with Philip Glass to create operas of two of these books. How beautiful they must be!)
2007.10.15 at 12:00am EDT
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