Friday, October 12, 2007

Doris Lessing’s Nobel Prize in Literature

By Bernie Quigley for The Free Market News Network on 10/12/2007

Not since Harry Potter has literary critic Harold Bloom been sent so close to the edge, calling the award of the 2007 Noble Prize to Doris Lessing, “ . . . pure political correctness.” But the literature award to Doris Lessing is an important landmark.

Since war’s end, two books by literary figures have virtually changed the political landscape and the way we live today. The one is Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon published in 1940. Koestler was an early communist and supporter of Joseph Stalin. But his later writing revealed to the West the delusional world of Marx and the widespread slaughter of millions it brought on in Russia during the rein of Stalin. He cast much of the blame on himself and on the dilettante and appeasing leftist and liberal Western thinkers and writers of the 1930s and 1940s. Koestler lifted the curtain to reveal that Marx, the nihilist god of Europe’s illuminati, was a ‘god that failed.’ By the 1950s his writing began to turn the tide and a new moral conscience developed in the West largely out of his perspective. Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook, published in 1962, is the second book. She herself was a communist in the 1950s and her rejection of the nihilist delusion advanced Koestler’s view. It brought a new generation out of shadow and on to a better path.

Contemporary social conscience and cultural studies may be as Bloom might claim; weakling, suburbanized and tenurized nihilism; insidious work akin to that of the coat carriers and fellow travelers who Koestler indicted. But Lessing does not in any way belong to that crowd. She is one of the very last lions of the old school: Writers like Koestler, Jack Reed, Andre Malraux, the committed journalists at McClure’s Magazine like Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens and their colleagues of the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. They were original thinkers who shook the world and men and women of enormous courage, ability and character who were neither daunted by the odds nor afraid to die for what they believed. And very often they did.


Lerner said...

It must be made clear that it isn't Doris Lessing that Harold Bloom has accused of political correctness, but the Nobel Prize Committee (if that's what it's called) that has awarded her the Prize, which is one hell of a difference.

Accordingly, the Times' republishing Lessing's essay on political correctness wasn't much of a comeback (as I believe it was meant to be). It is very good to know what she thinks about political correctness, but those views have nothing to do with what Bloom is saying. As you must know Bloom thinks very highly of Oscar Wilde's aesthetic sensibilities, but that has never stopped him from judging his poetry second rate.

So Lessing doesn't have to belong to the PC crowd herself for her work to be selected by that crowd on non-aesthetic grounds.

Anonymous said...