This Day In Writing History
On April 16th, 1962, The Golden Notebook, the classic novel by the Nobel Prize winning English writer Doris Lessing, was published. The novel is rightfully considered a seminal early work of feminist literature.
That wasn't what the author intended, though the book does have feminist themes. The Oxford Companion to English Literature described it as "inner space fiction." A better description would be experimental existentialist fiction.
The Golden Notebook uses a fragmented, stream-of-consciousness narrative to tell the story of Anna Wulf, a middle aged writer and single mother who has come apart - literally and metaphorically. She keeps four notebooks, each one representing a part of her personality.
In her black notebook, Anna records her experiences in Africa, where she helped fight the colonial oppression of black Africans. In her red notebook, she records her idealism, specifically her political idealism, as she first becomes a passionate young communist.
Over time, she changes into a sober realist, disillusioned by the crimes of the Stalin regime and the realization that communism can't create a better world as she had hoped.
Anna's yellow notebook contains her novel, which is a fictionalized version of her life. Her blue notebook is her personal diary, where she records the actual events in her life.
The narrative is comprised of alternating fragments from each of her four notebooks, which reflects her chaotic state of mind. Fearing that she might go insane, Anna tries to weave together the threads of her four notebooks and create one complete Golden Notebook.
In doing so, she embarks on a harrowing journey in search of her true self, confronting her anxieties and the painful truths at the heart of her personal crises.
The Golden Notebook is a classic existentialist novel written in a post-modernist style.
Quote Of The Day
"With a library, you are free, not confined by temporary political climates. It is the most democratic of institutions because no one - but no one at all - can tell you what to read and when and how." - Doris Lessing
Today's video features Doris Lessing reading from and discussing her work on an episode of CSPAN2's About Books series in 1997. Enjoy!