Doris Lessing

The Golden Notebook (1962)

Doris Lessing

                    1919 Born in Persia (father worked at Imperial Bank of Persia).

                    1923 Family moved to Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

                    Left school at age of 13.

                    Left home to work as nursemaid at age of 15, starting reading on politics and sociology. Started writing.

                    1937 Moved to Salisbury to work as phone operator.

                    1939 Married Frank Wisdom, had 2 children.

                    1943 Divorced, turned to a communist book club where she met her second husband.

                    1945 Married Gottfried Lessing, had one child.

                    1949 Divorced.


The Golden Notebook (1962)

                    Anna Wulf keeps four notebooks in which she keeps the record of her life, then attempts to tie them all together in a fifth, gold-colored notebook.

                    After the opening realistic section, ironically called "Free Women", the book fragments into Anna's four notebooks, colored black, red, yellow, and blue, respectively. Each notebook is returned to four times, creating non-chronological, overlapping sections.

                    Representative of her African experience, Black Notebook is divided into subdivisions labeled "Source" and "Money." Left side contains the seminal seeds of Anna's African memories, but eventually all she records appears in right column, dealing with business transactions related to her writing about her time in Africa. Thus, the experience has clearly been turned into something other than what it was and what she desires it to be.

                    Red Notebook begins idealistically but soon presents shortcomings of political agenda.

                    Yellow Notebook has Anna's fictional work in which she explores lost ideals of love.

                    Blue Notebook represents Anna's resolve to maintain a diary that will monitor the facts; however, once again she faces obstacles to her belief system.

                    Only after her mystical experience out of breakdown is she able to undertake the Golden Notebook, which appears as her recreation of a new understanding of the truths of life.



                    Novel offers an exploration of an individual trying to discover who she is in this ever- changing environment. The interior mindscape of the individual reflects the exterior world in which we live.

                    Like Friedrich Nietzsche, Lessing presents a mystical realization that a new world view is needed and individuals must find the means of enduring the new knowledge.

                    Novel presents acknowledgement of areas of female sexuality previously largely taboo.

                    Intricate form of the novel comprises interwoven narrative sequences, fragments of texts, “bundles” of newspaper cuttings from 1950-1957, diary entries, segments of play script, novel synopses and pastiches. Mixing literary discourses is not especially experimental.

                    All four notebooks and the frame narrative testify to women's struggles with the conflicts of work, sex, love, maternity, and politics.