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243

FREE WOMEN: 2

Two visits, some telephone calls and a tragedy

4
terms
14
notes

Lessing, D. (1962). FREE WOMEN: 2. In Lessing, D. The Golden Notebook. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, pp. 243-352

249

'He said that what I replied to his offers summed up the real influence of the communist parties on the West. He said that anyone who has been, or is, in the C. P., or who has had anything to do with it is a megalomaniac. He said that if he was Chief of Police trying to root out communists somewhere, he'd ask one question: Would you go to an undeveloped country and run a country clinic for fifty people? All the Reds would answer: 'No, because what's the point of improving the health of fifty people when the basic organisation of society is unchanged.' He leaned forward, confronting her, and insisted: 'Well, Anna?' She smiled and nodded: All right; but it was not enough. She said: 'No, that's not stupid at all.'

lmao

—p.249 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

'He said that what I replied to his offers summed up the real influence of the communist parties on the West. He said that anyone who has been, or is, in the C. P., or who has had anything to do with it is a megalomaniac. He said that if he was Chief of Police trying to root out communists somewhere, he'd ask one question: Would you go to an undeveloped country and run a country clinic for fifty people? All the Reds would answer: 'No, because what's the point of improving the health of fifty people when the basic organisation of society is unchanged.' He leaned forward, confronting her, and insisted: 'Well, Anna?' She smiled and nodded: All right; but it was not enough. She said: 'No, that's not stupid at all.'

lmao

—p.249 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
251

'Do you know what I said to my father? I said if I went out to do his dishonest welfare work I'd start organising revolutionary groups among the workers. He wasn't angry at all. He said revolutions were a primary risk of big business these days and he'd be careful to take out an insurance policy against the revolution I'd stir up.' Anna said nothing and Tommy said: 'It was a joke, do you see?'

—p.251 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

'Do you know what I said to my father? I said if I went out to do his dishonest welfare work I'd start organising revolutionary groups among the workers. He wasn't angry at all. He said revolutions were a primary risk of big business these days and he'd be careful to take out an insurance policy against the revolution I'd stir up.' Anna said nothing and Tommy said: 'It was a joke, do you see?'

—p.251 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
252

[...] She said quickly: 'I think you're making your father out to be much more simple than he is. I don't think he has an undivided mind: he once said being a big businessman these days was like being a rather superior office boy. And you forget that in the 'thirties he had a spell of being a communist, and he was even a bit of a bohemian for a while.'

'And his way of remembering that now is to have affairs with his secretaries-that's his way of persuading himself he's not just an ordinary respectable cog in the middle-class wheel.' [...]

—p.252 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

[...] She said quickly: 'I think you're making your father out to be much more simple than he is. I don't think he has an undivided mind: he once said being a big businessman these days was like being a rather superior office boy. And you forget that in the 'thirties he had a spell of being a communist, and he was even a bit of a bohemian for a while.'

'And his way of remembering that now is to have affairs with his secretaries-that's his way of persuading himself he's not just an ordinary respectable cog in the middle-class wheel.' [...]

—p.252 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

(adjective) putting an end to or precluding a right of action, debate, or delay / (adjective) not providing an opportunity to show cause why one should not comply / (adjective) admitting of no contradiction / (adjective) expressive of urgency or command / (adjective) characterized by often imperious or arrogant self-assurance / (adjective) indicative of a peremptory attitude or nature; haughty / (noun) a challenge (as of a juror) made as of right without assigning any cause

268

She thrust the glass at Anna, and said peremptorily: 'Fill it.'

—p.268 by Doris Lessing
notable
7 months, 1 week ago

She thrust the glass at Anna, and said peremptorily: 'Fill it.'

—p.268 by Doris Lessing
notable
7 months, 1 week ago
272

'Well yes and no. Your story is basically a simple love story. Yes it is. The colour thing is really-yes I know it's desperately important, and I couldn't agree with you more, how utterly beastly the whole thing is, but your story is really a simple moving love story. It's all there, trust me, it is-like another Brief Encounter. I do hope you see that as clearly as I do-you must remember the telly is just a question of seeing.' 'Very clearly, but surely one can throw away the novel Frontiers of War and begin again?' 'Well not entirely, because the book is so well-known and so marvellous, and I would like to keep the title, because the Frontier is surely not geographical? Not in essence? I don't see it like that. It is frontier of experience.' 'Well, perhaps you'd better write me a letter setting out your terms for an original television script?' 'But not altogether original.' (Whimsical twinkle.) 'Don't you think the people who had read the book would be surprised to see it turn into a sort of Brief Encounter With Wings?

lmaoooo

—p.272 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

'Well yes and no. Your story is basically a simple love story. Yes it is. The colour thing is really-yes I know it's desperately important, and I couldn't agree with you more, how utterly beastly the whole thing is, but your story is really a simple moving love story. It's all there, trust me, it is-like another Brief Encounter. I do hope you see that as clearly as I do-you must remember the telly is just a question of seeing.' 'Very clearly, but surely one can throw away the novel Frontiers of War and begin again?' 'Well not entirely, because the book is so well-known and so marvellous, and I would like to keep the title, because the Frontier is surely not geographical? Not in essence? I don't see it like that. It is frontier of experience.' 'Well, perhaps you'd better write me a letter setting out your terms for an original television script?' 'But not altogether original.' (Whimsical twinkle.) 'Don't you think the people who had read the book would be surprised to see it turn into a sort of Brief Encounter With Wings?

lmaoooo

—p.272 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
277

[...] She asks me if I'd like another Martini; I am going to refuse, then see she wants one; I say yes. A tension starts in my stomach; then I see it is her tension, communicating itself to me. I look at the controlled defensive handsome face and I'm sorry for her. I understand her life very well. She orders dinner-she is solicitous, tactful. It is like being taken out by a man. Yet she is not at all masculine; it is that she is used to controlling situations like this. I can feel how this role is not natural to her, what it costs her to play it. [...]

—p.277 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

[...] She asks me if I'd like another Martini; I am going to refuse, then see she wants one; I say yes. A tension starts in my stomach; then I see it is her tension, communicating itself to me. I look at the controlled defensive handsome face and I'm sorry for her. I understand her life very well. She orders dinner-she is solicitous, tactful. It is like being taken out by a man. Yet she is not at all masculine; it is that she is used to controlling situations like this. I can feel how this role is not natural to her, what it costs her to play it. [...]

—p.277 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

(adj) exhibiting different colors, especially as irregular patches or streaks

284

the overall feeling this expanse of fabric gave was of redness, a sort of variegated glowing red

—p.284 by Doris Lessing
notable
7 months, 1 week ago

the overall feeling this expanse of fabric gave was of redness, a sort of variegated glowing red

—p.284 by Doris Lessing
notable
7 months, 1 week ago

(adjective) marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose / (adjective) not connected with the main subject / (adjective) disappointing in progress, performance, or quality

288

The talk became desultory, I offered to make tea, everyone was pleased that the meeting was going to end.

—p.288 by Doris Lessing
notable
7 months, 1 week ago

The talk became desultory, I offered to make tea, everyone was pleased that the meeting was going to end.

—p.288 by Doris Lessing
notable
7 months, 1 week ago

(adjective) marked by restraint especially in the consumption of food or alcohol / (adjective) reflecting such restraint

291

Stalin sipped his tea abstemiously, nodding as he listened.

—p.291 by Doris Lessing
notable
7 months, 1 week ago

Stalin sipped his tea abstemiously, nodding as he listened.

—p.291 by Doris Lessing
notable
7 months, 1 week ago
298

This situation was heartbreakingly clear to Ella; and she felt, surely, to anyone who examined the couple for as long as five minutes? They had been lovers over-long. She had money, and this was necessary to him. She was desperately, fearfully in love with him. He was fond of her, and already chafing at the bonds. The great well-groomed ox was uneasy before the noose had even tightened around his neck. In two years, three years, they would be Monsieur and Madame Brun, in a well-furnished apartment (the money provided by her) with a small child and perhaps a nurse-maid; and she would be caressing and gay and anxious still; and he would be politely good-humoured, but sometimes bad-tempered when the demands of the home prevented his pleasures with his mistress.

—p.298 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

This situation was heartbreakingly clear to Ella; and she felt, surely, to anyone who examined the couple for as long as five minutes? They had been lovers over-long. She had money, and this was necessary to him. She was desperately, fearfully in love with him. He was fond of her, and already chafing at the bonds. The great well-groomed ox was uneasy before the noose had even tightened around his neck. In two years, three years, they would be Monsieur and Madame Brun, in a well-furnished apartment (the money provided by her) with a small child and perhaps a nurse-maid; and she would be caressing and gay and anxious still; and he would be politely good-humoured, but sometimes bad-tempered when the demands of the home prevented his pleasures with his mistress.

—p.298 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
299

[...] Suppose Paul had said to me, I'll marry you if you promise never to write another word? My God, I would have done it! I would have been prepared to buy Paxil, like an Elise buying Robert Brun. But that would have been a double deception, because the act of writing it was irrelevant-it was not an act of creation, but an act of recording something. The story was already written, in invisible ink... well perhaps somewhere inside me is another story written in invisible ink... but what's the point? I am unhappy because I have lost some kind of independence, some freedom; but my being 'free' has nothing to do with writing a novel; it has to do with my attitude towards a man, and that has been proved dishonest, because I am in pieces. The truth is that my happiness with Paul was more important to me than anything and where has that landed me? Alone, frightened to be alone, without resources, running from an exciting city because I haven't the moral energy to ring up any one of a dozen people who would be pleased if I did-or at least might turn out to be pleased.

What is terrible is that after every one of the phases of my life is finished, I am left with no more than some banal commonplace that everyone knows: in this case, that women's emotions are all still fitted for a kind of society that no longer exists. My deep emotions, my real ones, are to do with my relationship with a man. One man. But I don't live that kind of life, and I know few women who do. So what I feel is irrelevant and silly... I am always coming to the conclusion that my real emotions are foolish, I am always having, as it were, to cancel myself out. I ought to be like a man, caring more for my work than for people; I ought to put my work first, and take men as they come, or find an ordinary comfortable man for bread and butter reasons-but I won't do it, I can't be like that...

—p.299 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

[...] Suppose Paul had said to me, I'll marry you if you promise never to write another word? My God, I would have done it! I would have been prepared to buy Paxil, like an Elise buying Robert Brun. But that would have been a double deception, because the act of writing it was irrelevant-it was not an act of creation, but an act of recording something. The story was already written, in invisible ink... well perhaps somewhere inside me is another story written in invisible ink... but what's the point? I am unhappy because I have lost some kind of independence, some freedom; but my being 'free' has nothing to do with writing a novel; it has to do with my attitude towards a man, and that has been proved dishonest, because I am in pieces. The truth is that my happiness with Paul was more important to me than anything and where has that landed me? Alone, frightened to be alone, without resources, running from an exciting city because I haven't the moral energy to ring up any one of a dozen people who would be pleased if I did-or at least might turn out to be pleased.

What is terrible is that after every one of the phases of my life is finished, I am left with no more than some banal commonplace that everyone knows: in this case, that women's emotions are all still fitted for a kind of society that no longer exists. My deep emotions, my real ones, are to do with my relationship with a man. One man. But I don't live that kind of life, and I know few women who do. So what I feel is irrelevant and silly... I am always coming to the conclusion that my real emotions are foolish, I am always having, as it were, to cancel myself out. I ought to be like a man, caring more for my work than for people; I ought to put my work first, and take men as they come, or find an ordinary comfortable man for bread and butter reasons-but I won't do it, I can't be like that...

—p.299 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
301

Ella found herself in the grip of a sensation which, when she examined it, turned out to be loneliness. It was as if, between her and the groups of people, were a space of cold air, an emotional vacuum. The sensation was of physical cold, of physical isolation. She was thinking of Paul again: so powerfully that it seemed inconceivable that he should not simply walk in through a door and come up to her. She could feel the cold that surrounded her thawing in the powerful belief that he would soon be with her. With an effort she cut this fantasy: she thought in a panic, if I can't stop this, this madness, I'll never become myself again, I'll never recover. She succeeded in banishing the immanence of Paul; felt the chilly spaces open around her again, and inside cold and isolation, leafed through the piles of French magazines and thought of nothing at all. [...]

—p.301 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

Ella found herself in the grip of a sensation which, when she examined it, turned out to be loneliness. It was as if, between her and the groups of people, were a space of cold air, an emotional vacuum. The sensation was of physical cold, of physical isolation. She was thinking of Paul again: so powerfully that it seemed inconceivable that he should not simply walk in through a door and come up to her. She could feel the cold that surrounded her thawing in the powerful belief that he would soon be with her. With an effort she cut this fantasy: she thought in a panic, if I can't stop this, this madness, I'll never become myself again, I'll never recover. She succeeded in banishing the immanence of Paul; felt the chilly spaces open around her again, and inside cold and isolation, leafed through the piles of French magazines and thought of nothing at all. [...]

—p.301 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
308

Now, thought Ella. Now.

But she temporised: 'Did you know it was after twelve?'

'No? Is it? Too bad. I never go to bed before three or four and I'm up by seven, every day of my life.'

Now, thought Ella. It's ridiculous, she thought, that it should be so difficult. To say what she now said was going against every one of her deepest instincts, and she was surprised that it came out apparently casual, and only slightly breathless: 'Would you like to go to bed with me?'

He looked at her, grinning. He was not surprised. He was--interested. Yes, thought Ella, he's interested. Well good for him; she liked him for it. Suddenly he put back his broad healthy head and whooped: 'Boy, oh boy, would I? Yes, sir, Ella, if you hadn't said that I wouldn't have known what to say.'

'I know,' she said, smiling demurely. (She could feel this demure smile, and marvelled at it.) She said, demurely; 'Well, now, sir, I think you should set me at my ease, or something.'

—p.308 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

Now, thought Ella. Now.

But she temporised: 'Did you know it was after twelve?'

'No? Is it? Too bad. I never go to bed before three or four and I'm up by seven, every day of my life.'

Now, thought Ella. It's ridiculous, she thought, that it should be so difficult. To say what she now said was going against every one of her deepest instincts, and she was surprised that it came out apparently casual, and only slightly breathless: 'Would you like to go to bed with me?'

He looked at her, grinning. He was not surprised. He was--interested. Yes, thought Ella, he's interested. Well good for him; she liked him for it. Suddenly he put back his broad healthy head and whooped: 'Boy, oh boy, would I? Yes, sir, Ella, if you hadn't said that I wouldn't have known what to say.'

'I know,' she said, smiling demurely. (She could feel this demure smile, and marvelled at it.) She said, demurely; 'Well, now, sir, I think you should set me at my ease, or something.'

—p.308 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
314

'That's all right, I don't mind. You know Ella, I mentioned your name to someone today and they said you had written a book?'

'Everyone has written a book.'

'If I told my wife I'd met a real writer, she'd never get over it, she's mad about culture and that kind of thing.'

'But perhaps you'd better not tell her.'

'What if I read your book?'

'But you don't read books.'

'I can read,' he said, good-humoured. 'What's it about?'

'Well... let me see. It's full of insight and integrity and one thing and another.'

'You don't take it seriously?'

'Of course I take it seriously.

heh

—p.314 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

'That's all right, I don't mind. You know Ella, I mentioned your name to someone today and they said you had written a book?'

'Everyone has written a book.'

'If I told my wife I'd met a real writer, she'd never get over it, she's mad about culture and that kind of thing.'

'But perhaps you'd better not tell her.'

'What if I read your book?'

'But you don't read books.'

'I can read,' he said, good-humoured. 'What's it about?'

'Well... let me see. It's full of insight and integrity and one thing and another.'

'You don't take it seriously?'

'Of course I take it seriously.

heh

—p.314 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
316

Last night Michael said (I had not seen him for a week): 'Well, Anna, and so our great love affair is coming to an end?' Characteristic of him that it is a question mark: he is bringing it to an end, but talks as if I am. I said, smiling but ironical in spite of myself: 'But at least it has been a great love affair?' He, then: 'Ah, Anna, you make up stories about life and tell them to yourself, and you don't know what is true and what isn't.' 'And so we haven't had a great love affair?' This was breathless and pleading; though I had not meant it. I felt a terrible dismay and coldness at his words, as if he were denying my existence. He said, whimsically: 'If you say we have, then we have. And if you say not, then not.' 'So what you feel doesn't count?' 'Me? But Anna, why should I count?' (This was bitter, mocking, but affectionate.) Afterwards I fought with a feeling that always takes hold of me after one of these exchanges: unreality, as if the substance of my self were thinning and dissolving. And then I thought how ironical it was that in order to recover myself I had to use precisely that Anna which Michael dislikes most; the critical and thinking Anna. Very well then; he says I make up stories about our life together. I shall write down, as truthfully as I can, every stage of a day. Tomorrow. When tomorrow ends I shall sit down and write.

—p.316 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

Last night Michael said (I had not seen him for a week): 'Well, Anna, and so our great love affair is coming to an end?' Characteristic of him that it is a question mark: he is bringing it to an end, but talks as if I am. I said, smiling but ironical in spite of myself: 'But at least it has been a great love affair?' He, then: 'Ah, Anna, you make up stories about life and tell them to yourself, and you don't know what is true and what isn't.' 'And so we haven't had a great love affair?' This was breathless and pleading; though I had not meant it. I felt a terrible dismay and coldness at his words, as if he were denying my existence. He said, whimsically: 'If you say we have, then we have. And if you say not, then not.' 'So what you feel doesn't count?' 'Me? But Anna, why should I count?' (This was bitter, mocking, but affectionate.) Afterwards I fought with a feeling that always takes hold of me after one of these exchanges: unreality, as if the substance of my self were thinning and dissolving. And then I thought how ironical it was that in order to recover myself I had to use precisely that Anna which Michael dislikes most; the critical and thinking Anna. Very well then; he says I make up stories about our life together. I shall write down, as truthfully as I can, every stage of a day. Tomorrow. When tomorrow ends I shall sit down and write.

—p.316 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
331

[...] It is called: 'For Peace and Happiness,' and is written by a young worker. At least, that is how he is described by Comrade Butte. In fact, he is nearly forty, has been a Communist Party official these twenty years, was once a bricklayer. The writing is bad, the story lifeless, but what is frightening about this book is that it is totally inside the current myth. If that useful imaginary man from Mars (or for that matter, a man from Russia) should read this book he would get the impression that (a) the cities of Britain were locked in deep poverty, unemployment, brutality, a Dickensian squalor; and that (b) the workers of Britain were all communist or at least recognised the Communist Party as their natural leader. This novel touches reality at no point at all. (Jack described it as: 'communist cloud-cuckoo spit.') It is, however, a very accurate re-creation of the self-deceptive myths of the Communist Party at this particular time; and I have read it in about fifty different shapes or guises during the last year. I say: 'You know quite well this is a very bad book.' A look of dry stubbornness comes over Comrade Butte's long, bony face. I remember that novel he wrote himself, twenty years ago, which was so fresh and good and marvel that this can be the same man. He now remarks: 'It's no masterpiece, I didn't say it was, but it's a good book, I think.' This is the overture, so to speak, to what is expected to follow. I will challenge him, and he will argue. The end will be the same, because the decision has already been taken. The book will be published. People in the Party with any discrimination will be even more ashamed because of the steadily debasing values of the Party; the Daily Worker will praise it: 'In spite of its faults, an honest novel of Party life'; the 'bourgeois' critics who notice it will be contemptuous. [...]

—p.331 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

[...] It is called: 'For Peace and Happiness,' and is written by a young worker. At least, that is how he is described by Comrade Butte. In fact, he is nearly forty, has been a Communist Party official these twenty years, was once a bricklayer. The writing is bad, the story lifeless, but what is frightening about this book is that it is totally inside the current myth. If that useful imaginary man from Mars (or for that matter, a man from Russia) should read this book he would get the impression that (a) the cities of Britain were locked in deep poverty, unemployment, brutality, a Dickensian squalor; and that (b) the workers of Britain were all communist or at least recognised the Communist Party as their natural leader. This novel touches reality at no point at all. (Jack described it as: 'communist cloud-cuckoo spit.') It is, however, a very accurate re-creation of the self-deceptive myths of the Communist Party at this particular time; and I have read it in about fifty different shapes or guises during the last year. I say: 'You know quite well this is a very bad book.' A look of dry stubbornness comes over Comrade Butte's long, bony face. I remember that novel he wrote himself, twenty years ago, which was so fresh and good and marvel that this can be the same man. He now remarks: 'It's no masterpiece, I didn't say it was, but it's a good book, I think.' This is the overture, so to speak, to what is expected to follow. I will challenge him, and he will argue. The end will be the same, because the decision has already been taken. The book will be published. People in the Party with any discrimination will be even more ashamed because of the steadily debasing values of the Party; the Daily Worker will praise it: 'In spite of its faults, an honest novel of Party life'; the 'bourgeois' critics who notice it will be contemptuous. [...]

—p.331 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
334

It occurred to me that the reason I came to work for Jack, without knowing, was that I wanted to have my deep private preoccupations about art, about literature (and therefore about life), about my refusal to write again, put into a sharp focus, where I must look at it, day after day.

—p.334 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

It occurred to me that the reason I came to work for Jack, without knowing, was that I wanted to have my deep private preoccupations about art, about literature (and therefore about life), about my refusal to write again, put into a sharp focus, where I must look at it, day after day.

—p.334 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago
348

[...] I am too egotistical, Jack is right, I should simply be concerned with some sort of work, and not bothered about my conscience- nonsense, I don't believe that. I shouldn't dislike Rose so much-well only a saint wouldn't, she's a terrible woman. I am living on unearned money, because it's only luck that book was a best-seller, and other people with more talent have to sweat and suffer-nonsense, it's not my fault. The fight with my various forms of dissatisfaction tires me; but I know this is not a personal fight. When I talk about this with other women, they tell me they have to fight all kinds of guilt they recognise as irrational, usually to do with working, or wanting time for themselves; and the guilt is a habit of the nerves from the past, just as my happiness a few moments ago was a habit of the nerves from a situation that is finished. [...]

—p.348 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago

[...] I am too egotistical, Jack is right, I should simply be concerned with some sort of work, and not bothered about my conscience- nonsense, I don't believe that. I shouldn't dislike Rose so much-well only a saint wouldn't, she's a terrible woman. I am living on unearned money, because it's only luck that book was a best-seller, and other people with more talent have to sweat and suffer-nonsense, it's not my fault. The fight with my various forms of dissatisfaction tires me; but I know this is not a personal fight. When I talk about this with other women, they tell me they have to fight all kinds of guilt they recognise as irrational, usually to do with working, or wanting time for themselves; and the guilt is a habit of the nerves from the past, just as my happiness a few moments ago was a habit of the nerves from a situation that is finished. [...]

—p.348 by Doris Lessing 7 months, 1 week ago