Ingmar Bergman, Doris Lessing & inconsistencies of the human psyche

by Johanne Elster Hanson (Unboxed)

After the success of films such as Through a Glass Darkly, The Silence and Persona in the 1960s, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman continued to explore the contradictive human psyche in his works. It was during this period that he first read Doris Lessing’s Briefing for a Decent into Hell.

 

In 1974, Bergman wrote an admiring letter to Lessing in which he proposed a meeting between the two in order to discuss a potential film adaptation of one of her novels. The letter is dated September 1st 1974 and is held in the British Archive for Contemporary Writing at University of East Anglia. In it the director expresses deep gratitude towards Lessing, and claims to have read almost all of the Swedish translations of her works. In Lessing’s 1962 novel The Golden Notebook, Bergman claimed to have found the material for more than ten different feature films.

Lessing’s reply on September 12th matches Bergman in admiration and enthusiasm: Pleased with his letter, she tells him how he is “the film-maker I most respect and admire.” She goes on to discuss her new book The Memoirs of a Survivor that is about to be published in the UK, and asks him to read it before their meeting. She also recounts how the writing of her last book The Summer Before The Dark was almost cinematic; “This is the only novel I have ever written when this happened to me – that as I was putting the word down, it was as if I were describing a film running before my eyes.” Lessing sent Bergman an English copy of Memoirs of a Survivor, and signed off by saying how she looked forward “very much” to hearing from him. However, the enthusiastic correspondence preserved in the British Archive for Contemporary Writing bore no fruits: Bergman never made a film based on Lessing’s book, although a film of Memoirs of a Survivor was later directed by David Gladwell and starred Julie Christie.

Michael Tapper, an affiliated researcher in film studies at Lund University in Sweden, writes in his 2017 book Ingmar Bergman’s Face to Face that Bergman appreciated how Lessing gave “credibility to insanity and/or dream as a reflection of an absurd existence”. Lessing’s The Golden Notebook tells the story of writer Anna Wulf who attempts to tie together various aspects of her life through coloured notebooks. The book’s fragmented, post-modern narrative must have appealed to Bergman; his film Cries and Whispers, a psychological chamber piece about four women whose pasts are revealed through flashbacks, had premiered at the Cannes Film Festival the year before he wrote to Doris Lessing.

2018 marks the centenary of the Swedish filmmaker’s birth. The British Film Institute is celebrating the filmmaker, who died in 2007, with its very own Bergman-festival. Stretching across three months from January through March, the festival involves screenings of classics such as The Seventh Seal, Scenes from a Marriage and Fanny & Alexander, as well as some if his lesser-known films. Given Bergman and Lessing’s overlapping interest in the inconsistencies of the human psyche, any collaboration between them would no doubt have been one of the headlines at the British Film Institute’s Bergman-festival.

 Johanne Elster Hanson is a second year undergraduate at the University of East Anglia, currently studying English Literature with Creative Writing and working as a volunteer blogger for the British Archive for Contemporary Writing’s Unboxed programme. A native Norwegian, she is particularly interested in translation and cases where Scandinavian and British culture overlaps.

Doris Lessing’s archive of correspondence is held at the University of East Anglia’s British Archive for Contemporary Writing. To visit the archive please email: archives@uea.ac.uk

 

 

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What’s the key to a brilliant piece of writing? Revisions – lots of them

Yin Lim uncovers the editing process behind the short fiction of award winning UEA MA graduate, Tash Aw, and his reluctance to alter the ending of his debut novel.

Authors will tell you that good writing is the product of countless edits and rewrites as they polish the work until they deem it ready for public consumption. For instance, Neil Gaiman recommends putting away a completed manuscript until the author can read it with ‘new eyes’ to be able to fix it, while Kazuo Ishiguro spends an average of six hours a day on his later drafts and revisions – twice the time he takes to work on his first drafts. Recent Booker prize winner George Saunders says that the artist ‘tweaks’ what is already there.

For award-winning author and UEA alumnus Tash Aw, it would take many revisions before he was happy for his short story Sail to be published in A Public Space, an award-winning literary and arts magazine. Annotated drafts that form part of archival material loaned by Aw to the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW) at the University of East Anglia provide a fascinating insight into the all-important practice of revision. Through these documents we can see Aw’s process of writing the piece which tells the story of Yanzu, a Chinese businessman who despite his financial successes, still struggles with a sense of insecurity and failure following the end of a love affair. It’s a rare opportunity to peer into the author’s mind as we read his handwritten notes about the different ideas he had for the piece as it developed; for example, whether a specific section would eventually become the main set piece of the short story.

Going through these drafts, it’s not hard to be curious about the thought processes that prompted Aw to make his revisions; why he replaced certain words and sentences, moved around sections or omitted them altogether, deleted secondary characters and developed a new ending. Some of these revisions would have been responses to comments made by fellow author Yiyun Li, who is also a contributing editor with A Public Space. In a 2011 e-mail exchange with Aw, Li noted how one of the characters felt flat, and suggested that some cuts and revisions could help heighten conflict in the story. The final draft of Sail reveals that Aw also took into consideration Li’s feedback about shortening or changing a book club scene in the story, with the end result being a tighter and subtler version of the earlier drafts.

Not all editors’ feedback are necessarily as well-received however. Aw believed that revisions suggested by editor Cindy Spiegel of Riverhead Books, the US publisher of his debut novel The Harmony Silk Factory, could potentially alter the very essence of the book. A letter exchange between Aw and Spiegel reveals how Aw spent a month working on Spiegel’s edit notes and ‘agonising’ over them before finally making the decision to stand by his original ending instead of modifying it as Spiegel recommended.   As important as the process of editing and revising is to improving a manuscript, equally crucial is the author’s conviction of what works and what doesn’t.

This correspondence can be found in Aw’s archive within the BACW, which also includes typescripts, editorial comments and correspondence with agents and publishers for the critically-acclaimed The Harmony Silk Factory, whose draft manuscript was completed while Aw was on UEA’s MA Creative Writing (Prose Fiction) in 2003.

Yin F Lim is an MA student in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction at the UEA. A former journalist and editor, she is writing about her grandparents’ migration from China to colonial Malaya from her perspective as a recent immigrant to the UK. 

Tash Aw (1971-) a prize winning author and graduate of the MA in Creative Writing (Prose). Aw has produced three novels, all to critical acclaim: The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), Map of the Invisible World (2009) and Five Star Billionaire (2013). He is winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and has twice been longlisted for the MAN Booker prize. His short fiction has won an O. Henry Prize and been published in A Public Space, the landmark Granta 100, and elsewhere.  His non-fiction book, The Face: Strangers on a Pier, was a finalist for the LA Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose. 

More on the The Tash Aw Archive at BACW (UEA)

To visit the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, email archives@uea.ac.uk

www.uea.ac.uk/bacw 

Snoo Wilson Scriptwriting Prize 2017

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Snoo Wilson Scriptwriting Prize, 2017 judged by Molly Naylor and Adam Taylor.

  • Undergraduate shortlist: Angie Peña-Arenas (Winner of the undergraduate category) – Oiga, Mire, Vea (Screenplay) and Eleanor Daymond – Glawen (stageplay)
  • PG Shortlist: Iain Gonoude (Winner of the postgraduate category) – Cherrypicking (Stageplay) and Ann Yuu Engebretsen – Aireborne (Screenplay)

The Prize seeks to reward the most inventive, imaginative and formally achieved piece of scriptwriting as a dissertation by an Undergraduate or Postgraduate student in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. Each student received £250. In 2018, the Prize will be extended to scriptwriting students in the School of Art, Media and American Studies.

The prizes were awarded at a ceremony held at The Garage in Norwich on 31 January 2018. UEA Drama students gave excellent performances of readings of extracts from each of the shortlisted scripts before the winner was announced by judges Molly Naylor (scriptwriter and performer) and Adam Taylor (The Garage in Norwich).

Also in attendance were members of Snoo Wilson’s family and friends, and an invited audience of students/ and families of the shortlisted entrants.

The late Snoo Wilson read American Studies at UEA and was taught by the author and literary critic, Malcolm Bradbury. He graduated in 1969 and began his writing career in the same year. He was one of a handful of playwrights who reinvented British theatre in the 1970’s and 80’s. More About Snoo Wilson.

The Snoo Wilson Archive was gifted to the British Archive for Contemporary Writing in 2015 and the Faculty of Humanities kindly funds the prize which acknowledges Snoo’s legacy.

 

Plotting the Perfect Crime: a crime writing exhibition from the British Archive for Contemporary Writing at UEA

Noirwichnoirwich logo

This year’s crime writing exhibition, created to coincide with Noirwich, reveals the intricate planning behind some of our greatest contemporary crime novels, with material from Val McDermid, Stuart MacBride and Robert Edric, author of a crime trilogy set in Hull, this year’s City of Culture. Stuart MacBride predicts a nosebleed amongst fellow writers.

Here archivist, Justine Mann, introduces her personal highlights.

Stuart MacBride

MacBride’s notebooks and mindmaps are the earliest incarnation of his novels. He has created a literal map to visualise his fictional town of Old Castle, all the better to locate the murders and the distances between them. What begins as an impressive tool evolves into something the Ordnance Survey would be proud of and is published within a subsequent novel. Perhaps the most striking of elements within this display is a graph. At first glance it appears to be a chart of multiple, frantic, sound waves but on closer inspection it reveals the cadences of plot points marshalled to pinpoint accuracy in order to create the most devastating effect on the reader. He remarks casually, that ‘This has been known to give other writers nose bleeds’. This display also reveals his painstaking restructuring of the plot for In the Cold Dark Ground, scene by scene with scissors and sellotape.

Val McDermid

The author’s latest novel, Insidious Intent, ‘impeccably plotted and intensely gripping’ also began in notebook form. On display are original pages from a numbered outline charting key plot developments. ‘When I start a book, I have an idea of the story arc and I’ve spent most of my prep time thinking about the characters: how they’re going to conduct themselves, how they got to be the person they are today.’

The evidence here suggests that McDermid’s subconscious is working hard on plot design before she tackles the page. While crafting the language she refers to the outline notes to keep the structure on track. She recently revealed her daily routine to The Guardian:

‘Around the second cup of coffee, I take a look at what I last wrote, tweaking and revising, stripping the prose back till I’m more at ease with it. I spend the first month feeling my way into the book, getting a sense of its world and learning its nooks and crannies. Then it picks up pace and I can’t escape it.’

Robert Edric

How does a literary novelist take on the challenge of writing crime fiction? In 2002, the Booker longlisted author, Robert Edric, took a break from writing literary novels, to create a crime trilogy set in Hull, this year’s City of Culture. In The Times, Neel Mukherjee, applauded Cradle Song, Edric’s first, for: “its vertiginously devious plot twists, the maze of multiple-crossings (which) all close like a fist around the throat of the reader.”

“When I’m working on a literary novel,” Edric says, “it’s less important to me whether I write a, then d, g , x then e. The meaning of the book might be in the middle. The goal is not the end, but whether it fails or succeeds in your own mind. With a crime novel, you’re less organic. There has to be a logical process.’

A sense of place has always been important to Edric and in the opening chapter on display he uses Spurn Point, a bleak yet beautiful peninsular, 30 miles from Hull and ravaged on all sides by the North Sea, as the setting of a key meeting between ex copper, Sullivan, and private investigator, Rivers. The drafts reveal the key phrases and striking images that survive, almost in tact, from first draft through to final publication, as well as the tweaks and line edits that heighten characterisation and plot tension.

Previewed on Friday 15 September (UEA, TPSC Foyer) /

UEA Archives Foyer, UEA Library Floor 02, Tue 19 Sept – Fri 22 Dec (Free access)

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: June 2017

In June, Archives staff settled into the Silent Reading Room just along the corridor and we expect to be here for several weeks. Refurbishment work continues on Floor 02 and the builders have gone to great lengths in safeguarding our equipment and the collections, even installing temporary walls and doors.

Further details on the temporary closure of Archives.


BACW

  • UEA students have been consulting Tash Aw’s Archive and Doris Lessing’s correspondence.
  • 10 PhD students of creative writing, literature, history, languages and linguistics attended our joint British Archive for Contemporary Writing and East Anglian Film Archives workshop at the CHASE Encounters Conference  held at UEA on 29 and 30 June.The workshop highlighted the opportunities and challenges of using film and literary Archive material for research and teaching, as well as the day to day role of the Archivist and the future challenge for archives in managing born digital material.

    Students were provided with hands on access to copies of unique archive material to help simulate the process of independent archive research. This provoked some interesting discussion, particularly amongst creative writers who were prompted to consider their own archive material.

Kenney Papers (Suffragettes)
• We are preparing materials for an external exhibition to be held in 2018/19.
• The collection is being used by a writer as the basis for her work of fiction.

Pritchard Papers
One user is researching for a book on Lawn Road Flats and artists of the 1930s; another is writing a book on art, design and science.

Other enquiries related to the Pritchard family tree; and to Walter Gropius’ farewell dinner guest list from 1937.

Roger Deakin

ShepherdsHutSummer

The shepherd’s hut to which Deakin refers in The Garden. Copyright Estate of Roger Deakin

Users are reminded that the BBC recording of Cigarette on the Waveney is publicly available online (a tranquil documentary of Deakin’s trip down the River Waveney in a white canoe). For UEA members, his recordings of The House and The Garden are available on Box of Broadcasts.

UEA Collection
Malcolm Bradbury’s large magazine and newspaper archive has been accessed by a visiting academic in LDC (School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing).

Zuckerman Archive
The collection has been accessed for the correspondence of Lord Zuckerman, Lord Mountbatten and Margaret Thatcher; and for architectural drawings of German and Italian buildings held within WWII bombing reports.

Special Collections
RauschenbergA valuable addition to the collection has been a limited facsimile edition of Robert Rauschenberg‘s 34 illustrations after Dante’s Inferno. Produced by New York’s Museum of Modern Art and presented in a grey clothbound clamshell box, it includes the trade publication. Rauschenberg’s series of drawings from 1958–60 are each reproduced at actual size on individual sheets; a drawing for each Canto of Dante’s poem. A copy of the trade publication is on order for the Library’s open shelves.

There were 12 enquiries for Special Collections.

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: May 2017

British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW)

  • Around 40 international agents (UEA ambassadors) visited the Archives in May to hear about some highlights including the Storehouse model, the Publishing module, the Unboxed project and the Literary Festival collection.
  • At UEA’s Learning and Teaching Day the BACW held a joint workshop with the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) ‘Digital Heritage: Equipping Students for the cultural and creative industries’.
  • Richard Beard (writer) was interviewed by Jos Smith (Director of BACW) at UEA’s Enterprise Centre. This was part of an all-day seminar for MA Creative Writing students. Beard spoke of the writing and publishing process and the rationale for placing his papers on loan in the Archive. Richard Beard Archive.

Unboxed
Three new blog posts have been published by our LDC (Literature, Drama & Creative Writing) students:

Permission requests for forthcoming publications by users of the archives have related to the suffragettes (Kenney Papers) and to the history of climate change (G.S. Callendar Archive).

John Hill Archive
We’ve been looking at agricultural land in Haddiscoe, Norfolk and how it looked in 1961 when it used to operate as a pea vining station.

Pritchard Papers
Researchers have been interested in the journalist and architectural critic Philip Morton Shand (grandfather of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall); and the archaeologist Gordon Childe (former tenant of Lawn Road Flats).

Roger Deakin
Research has concentrated on Deakin’s income and letters of refusal from agents and publishers.

Zuckerman Archive

010

Committee on Research & Development.

Researchers have been interested in:
• The use of dogs to detect metal explosives 1955-1970.
• The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and international scientific cooperation during the Cold War (SZ/IIASA).
• The Committee on the Management and Control of Research and Development. This is a valuable resource documenting the early articulation of Applied Science in the UK (SZ/MR).
• The Bombing Analysis Unit of the RAF (SZ/BAU).

 

Special Collections: 13 enquiries.

Temporary disruption to UEA Archives and Special Collections during summer 2017

There will be some temporary disruption to the UEA Archives and Special Collections service, including the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW), during summer 2017.

The UEA Library is undertaking a space project to create further student study spaces. The work requires Archives staff to relocate from their office on Floor 02. The adjacent Archive Reading Room will also be affected during this time.

To safeguard material:

There will be no access to archive collections between 16 June and 18 August.

There will be limited access to Special Collections items by prior arrangement.

Archive staff will be working during office hours and are able to answer queries regarding the collections.

Below are some frequently asked questions about the planned work.

If you have any concerns whatsoever, please let us know.

We regret any inconvenience caused.

Justine Mann, Archivist, British Archive for Contemporary Writing

Bridget Gillies, Archives Assistant, UEA Archives

e: archives@uea.ac.uk

t: (voicemail only available during this period) 01603 59 3483  / 01603 59 3419

FAQ

How will the work affect users of University of East Anglia Archives and Special Collections?

The Archive Reading Room will be inaccessible between 15 June and 18 August.

To safeguard collections, there will be no access to Archive material during this time.

If you have any concerns about the loss of access during this period, please contact Justine Mann justine.mann@uea.ac.uk.

Archives staff will relocate from their office to a nearby Silent Reading Room.

Our office hours will be as normal and we can answer archive queries during this time.

There will be limited and bookable access to Special Collections items (books/ pamphlets) within the nearby Silent Reading Room by prior arrangement with Archive staff who will supervise visits.

There will be one microfilm reader available within Silent Reading Room – Periodicals Rm 02.32  with a printing facility. This will be bookable by prior arrangement.

Unless advertised otherwise on our Website, access hours will be 09:30-12:30 and 13:30-16:30 as usual.

Please email archives@uea.ac.uk to make a request for Special Collections or for microfilm access and provide as much notice as possible.

If we have no existing bookings on a particular day, we will assist you whenever we can.

We apologise for the inconvenience caused during this period.

Our Website pages will contain up to date information on access:

For further information on the Library Space Project, click here.

 

 

You cannot fake a writer: Kazuo Ishiguro on his experience at UEA

Kazuo Ishiguro_UEA ImageLibrary

UEA: Archive Image

UEA literature student, Melina Spanoudi, revisits an archived interview with Kazuo Ishiguro as part of the British Archive for Contemporary Writing’s Unboxed project.

Kazuo Ishiguro applied to the University of East Anglia in 1979, following a long year of social work in London. The MA in Creative Writing began in autumn, leaving the entire summer free for him to panic. He did so briefly, before beginning to write seriously for the first time. Ten years later, he won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Remains of the Day.

Returning to UEA during the Literary Festival of 1999, in an interview with award winning academic, novelist and biographer, Christopher Bigsby, Ishiguro is asked whether writing can be taught. Put plainly, his answer is no. Ishiguro believes that a writer cannot be crafted: rather, they are sculpted, refined in their involvement with the creative process of writing within an academic environment. Through sharing first drafts, exposing themselves and others to criticism, embarrassment and acclaim, the writer is given the opportunity to realize where they must stand when choosing to write.

However, the initial choice to write remains a personal matter. Any creation which is forced to extend itself beyond the boundaries of personal innovation is of no genuine value; you cannot fake a writer more than you can fake a text.

Ishiguro remarks: ‘You can certainly produce someone who can write more competently. But I would be rather more sceptical about the possibility of their producing anything of artistic worth.’

The process between writing and identifying as a writer is unique to each individual; However, what happens when you embark on a degree which expects you to be a writer before you have begun to write?

With little writing experience, sporadically noting descriptive fragments mirroring the semi-autobiographical style of Kerouac, Ishiguro’s journey to becoming a writer invites us to question whether he adopted the identity of ‘writer’ during the course of his degree in Creative Writing. Ishiguro explains that he discovered the space he required to explore his individual style of writing at the UEA. The learning atmosphere fostered through the flexible teaching methods adopted by his tutors, Malcom Bradbury and Angela Carter, enabled him to create, unaided and uninterrupted.

He describes his year at the UEA to Bigsby: ‘That was when I really started to write. So it was very fundamental. Before I went to East Anglia I had written very little indeed, certainly nothing I would count today as proper writing.’

Ishiguro dates the beginning of his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, in 1979/80, during the year he was studying at the UEA. He notes that most of his time studying Creative Writing was spent writing that novel. Although his first book resembled a form of a semi-autobiographical work, his later novels are informed by the awareness of his ability to create outside the context of his own life.

He explains: ‘Somewhere along the way I discovered that I could write better, more effectively, if I changed the setting and put the whole thing at a greater distance.’

Somewhere along the way, perhaps at UEA, Ishiguro became one of the greatest writers of our time. His journey at the university reminds students of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing that we are not taught how to become writers, but of the ways which enable us to discover our most humane and distinctive narrative voices.

Quotations reproduced with the kind permission of the author. All rights reserved.

To view the Literary Festival interview in full in our Archive Reading Room, contact the British Archive for Contemporary Writing archives@uea.ac.uk

To find out more about our 300+ collection of Literary Festival recordings, visit http://www.uea.ac.uk/bacw/litfest

 

The story of UEA’s MA in Creative Writing

An Unboxed blog from Rosie Burgoyne.

Until 1970, no University in the UK offered students the chance to take an MA in Creative Writing. This all changed when Sir Malcolm Bradbury and Sir Angus Wilson founded a Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, the very first of its kind in the UK. If you head down to floor 02, right in the depths of UEA’s library, you will find the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, home to an extensive collection on the history of the Creative Writing MA and the life of its founder, Sir Malcolm Bradbury.

One of the many hidden gems within the archive is an image of some of the first students on the Creative Writing MA course, under the supervision of Sir Malcolm Bradbury. The enthusiasm and essence of UEA as a hub for literature and creative writing is further captured in an image from The Guardian’s picture archive. The students in the picture are smiling to one another as they take part in what appears to have been some form of seminar or discussion about their writing. They are under the watchful eye of Sir Malcolm Bradbury, who was then both the course director and a lecturer. These students were amongst the earliest to be offered the opportunity to complete an MA in creative writing, which at the time concentrated primarily on prose.

Since the picture was taken, the MA has branched out to include courses in poetry, scriptwriting, life writing and crime fiction. However, its world-renowned reputation remains unchanged, with notable graduates including Booker Prize winners Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Anne Enright.

The founder of the programme, Sir Malcolm Bradbury, led a prolific writing career in his own right. He wrote numerous short stories, television plays and series, literary criticism and novels, many of which were inspired by his experiences of academia, including ‘The History Man’, which was published in 1975.

Within the archive at UEA are scripts, newspapers, magazine cuttings and other revealing materials, documenting the lifetime of Sir Malcolm Bradbury in terms of both his writing career and his involvement in the creative writing MA at UEA.

Throughout his lifetime, Bradbury was known to have encouraged young, aspiring authors, especially during his time as a lecturer, reader and professor at UEA and he has left behind a lasting legacy for UEA’s creative writing students. He was recognised for his efforts by being made a CBE in 1991 and knighted in 2000 for his outstanding contribution to Literature.

For further information about Sir Malcolm Bradbury or the history of the creative writing MA at UEA the following links may be of use:

https://portal.uea.ac.uk/library/archives/bacw/bradbury

http://www.malcolmbradbury.com/index.html

https://www.uea.ac.uk/literature/creative-writing/about-uea-creative-writing

Lessing’s writing pushed boundaries and she lived life to the same beat

Doris Lessing Portrait (1950s)

Doris Lessing Portrait (1950s): Copyright CAMERA PRESS

An Unboxed blog, from Martha Griffiths, first year student of American and English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

Amongst the 110 love letters held in the Whitehorn collection at the British Archive for Contemporary Writing from Doris Lessing to her wartime lover, perhaps one gives us a greater insight into her young life, and the society she grew up in. It was written to John R. M. Whitehorn, an RAF serviceman and intimate confidante and is dated sometime around January 1945.

This letter  perfectly captures Lessing’s determination to make her own choices and express herself and her emotions towards others. It describes her relationship with both her husband and the other men that she met, mostly through Communist Party meetings. Not only is she writing to a long-term lover about her husband, but she also describes the “platonic amour” she has met recently. To many, this flirtation may come as a surprise or appear scandalous but, as she would come to say in later interviews, it was just something one did in those times.

She even joined the Communist Party out of boredom, a feeling shared by many of the RAF soldiers she met there. There is genuine affection in the note towards Whitehorn, but Lessing makes it clear that it would be an unfortunate man who attempted to interfere with her choices.

This was a woman to be reckoned with; she was totally self-aware and comfortably content to make her own choices. Lessing’s works are known for pushing boundaries and she lived her life to the same beat, whilst aware of her husband’s discomfort with her social life she was not willing to give in to the pull of domesticity.

The Doris Lessing Archive, held within UEA’s British Archive for Contemporary Writing, is an invaluable source with letters from one of the most influential female authors of the twentieth century. Her eloquence and her passion cannot mask what a formidable opponent she was if ever obstructed