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A Small Personal Voice
Essays, Reviews, Interviews
Edited by Paul Schlueter

Year First Published: 1974
First Published by:Alfred A. Knopf
This Edition:American first edition

From the book jacket:

Doris Lessing in 1957:
"The novel is the only popular art-form left where the artist speaks directly, in clear words, to his audience.... The novelist talks as an individual to individuals, in a small personal voice. In an age of committee art, public art, people any begin to feel again a need for the small personal voice; and this will feed confidence into writers and, with confidence because of the knowledge of being needed, the warmth and humanity, and love of people which is essential for a great age of literature."

This book is a collection of Mrs. Lessing's essays, reminiscences, reviews, appraisals, and interviews over a period of seventeen years from 1956 to 1973. They have never been brought together before, and together they demonstrate the extraordinary diversity of her interests, while bearing witness to the strength and authority of her beliefs and insight...

Consider what she has to say about the relationship between living and writing:

"You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldnt care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing cant be a way of life, the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it."

- about being in love:

"The number of women prepared to stand up for what they really think, feel, experience with a man they are in love with is still small."

- about institutions:

"We give little attention to the people who leave - that process of elimination that goes on all the time and which excludes, very early, those likely to be original and reforming, leaving those attracted to a thing because that is what they are already like.... This social mechanism goes almost unnoticed - yet it is as powerful as any in keeping our institutions rigid and oppressive."

- about what really matters in life:

"It seems to me more and more that the only thing that really matters in life is not wealth or poverty, pleasure or hardship, but the nature of the human beings with whom one is thrown into contact, and ones relation with them."

Whether she is speaking of her reasons for writing The Golden Notebook, of the Sufis, of political injustice and stupidity in Southern Africa, of the special gifts of writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Isak Dinesen, or of her memories of her father, what we hear if we listen is that "small, personal voice." "Everywhere," she says, "if you keep your mind open, you will find the truth in words not written down." Both in the words and between the lines of this book, much truth is to be found."

Also see:

Included in this Edition:

On Her Life and Writings
The Small Personal Voice
Preface to The Golden Notebook
Interview with Doris Lessing by Roy Newquist
Doris Lessing at Stony Brook: An Interview by Jonah Raskin
A Talk with Doris Lessing by Florence Howe
My Father
On Other Writers
Afterword to The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner
Allah Be Praised
In The World, Not of It
Vonnegut's Responsibility
Ant's Eye View: A Review of The Soul of the White Ant by Eugene Marais
A Deep Darkness: A Review of Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
On Africa
Being Prohibited
The Fruits of Humbug