It focuses on the Clefts: a primitive society of parthenogenic women who only ever give birth to female children. And then, one day, a monstrous creature is born with horribly deformed genitals. The Clefts expose it, as they do all damaged infants, but then more of these Monsters are born and, before long, the Clefts find themselves struggling against the rise of a new population, who are so similar to them and yet so horrifyingly, incomprehensibly different: men. As we follow this society, we see the gradual shifting of balance — the Clefts originally having the upper hand; then a form of equality; and finally a change in favour of the Squirts, who begin to see the Clefts merely as baby-making machines. To make matters more complex, the whole story is presented as a series of found documents, preserved in secret and carefully reconstructed by a nameless Roman historian who occasionally pops in to tell us about his own life.

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In the rough environment, his wife Emily aspired to lead an Edwardian lifestyle. It might have been possible had the family been wealthy; in reality, they were short of money and the farm delivered very little income. She left home at 15 and worked as a nursemaid. She started reading material that her employer gave her on politics and sociology [9] and began writing around this time.

In , Doris moved to Salisbury to work as a telephone operator , and she soon married her first husband, civil servant Frank Wisdom, with whom she had two children John, —, and Jean, born in , before the marriage ended in They married shortly after she joined the group, and had a child together Peter, , before they divorced in She did not marry again.

She later said that at the time she saw no choice: "For a long time I felt I had done a very brave thing. There is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children.

I would have ended up an alcoholic or a frustrated intellectual like my mother. The file, which contains documents that are redacted in parts, shows Lessing was under surveillance by British spies for around twenty years, from the earlys onwards. Her associations with Communism and her anti-racist activism are reported [22] to be the reasons for the secret service interest in Lessing.

Literary career Edit At the age of fifteen, Lessing began to sell her stories to magazines. Arriving home to a gathering of reporters, she exclaimed, "Oh Christ!

Lessing wrote that "it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us — for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. Illness and death Edit During the lates, Lessing suffered a stroke [41] which stopped her from travelling during her later years.


Women and children first

The questions that Lessing especially does not want to hear are, What is the story really about? What does it mean? In other words, we must take her stories at face value and see them as just that works of her imagination, nothing more. After finishing The Cleft, however, it seems impossible not to ask those questions.


Saved by a Squirt

The Cleft is his translation of this document, with his comments and occasionally a modest bit of autobiography. Somewhere, sometime, creatures like a cross between women and walruses, called Clefts, heaved about on a seashore and had babies. They conceived by an unspecified mechanism of parthenogenesis, since there were no males. They did nothing but wallow, give birth, suckle and occasionally sacrifice a young female by pushing her off a high rock, also called the Cleft. It was an idyllic life. But suddenly, somehow, one of the females had a baby with a spigot rather than a cleft. Ruled by unthinking instinct as they were, this upset the walrus-women.


Doris Lessing

To be strictly accurate, her latest book is set among a race of pre-people, as they emerge fumblingly into what we might think of as people-hood. Pieced together by a Roman historian from ancient records that are themselves the compilation of different strands of oral testimony, The Cleft is the story of our earliest ancestors, a slow-moving, semi-aquatic race of females. Lessing claims that the book was inspired by a scientific article in which it was asserted that the basic and primal human stock was probably female. They seem to lack the solidity of women, who seem to be endowed with a natural harmony with the ways of the world Is Nature trying something out? There will, no doubt, be some enthusiasts of the great monotheistic religions, for instance, in which male primacy seems to be a pretty key ingredient who will take a Bloom-like view of The Cleft as a kind of feminist tract.


The Cleft (2007): Doris Lessing

Plot summary[ edit ] The story is narrated by a Roman historian, during the time of the Emperor Nero. In the beginning, humanity was composed solely of females who reproduced asexually. They were at peace and had few problems. They lived by the sea and were partially aquatic. They called themselves "Clefts," after The Cleft: a fissure in a rock which the females deemed sacred, and which resembled a vagina.

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