And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass
from “You, Andrew Marvell” by Archibald Macleish
Kermanshah, known as the “Gate to Asia” lies in the Zagros mountains of Iran. It is the largest Kurdish city in Iran. It was here, on Oct 22nd 1919 that Doris Lessing was born.
In 1925 her family moved to Southern Rhodesia and it was in Africa that the Nobel Literature Laureate found her unique voice. An Africa that exists no more, where Robert Mugabe renamed the country Zimbabwe and chaotically dismantled the productive economy.
Twice married and twice divorced she left Africa in 1949 leaving her children behind because “There is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children. I felt I wasn’t the best person to bring them up. I would have ended up an alcoholic or a frustrated intellectual like my mother”.
Banned from returning to Rhodesia (or South Africa) for her views on apartheid, she was also closely monitored by the British Secret Service for her support of Communism. A supporter of Communism who was not afraid to denounce Soviet aggression . She was vocal in criticism of the Hungarian and Afghan invasions. Also a lifelong anti-nuclear campaigner and vocal feminist.
My favourite thing about Lessing is that she evolved into a writer of Science Fiction. She moulded her Science Fiction from Sufi Philosophy, a throwback perhaps to the place of her birth, and the sinful Sufi poets of Persia.
Lessing stoutly defended speculative fiction against literary snobs. You can do that when you have won every literary prize worth having!
Oh Cherry trees you are too white for my heart; by Doris Lessing
Oh Cherry trees you are too white for my heart,
And all the ground is whitened with your dying,
And all your boughs go dipping towards the river,
And every drop is falling from my heart.’
Now if there is justice in the angel with the bright eyes
He will say ‘Stop!’ and hand me a bough of cherry.
The bearded angel, four-square and straight like a goat
Lifts a ruminant head and slowly chews at the snow.
Goat, must you stand here?
Must you stand here still?
Is it that you will always stand here,
Proof against faith, proof against innocence?