Show Less
Restricted access

Doris Lessing - A Life Behind the Scenes

The Files of the British Intelligence Service MI5

Peter Raina

In March 1949 the security service MI5 received notice of a suspect person about to enter Britain and went to great pains to keep her under surveillance. This person was the author Doris Lessing. She would eventually go on to win the Nobel Prize for literature as an «epicist … who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny». And it was precisely this scrutiny that troubled the guardians of the status quo. Lessing grew up in colonial Rhodesia and hated the scorn with which the colonists treated the native population. She worked tirelessly for a more just society and this drove her into support for communism. But a communist, as one of her fictional characters says, «is hated, despised, feared and hunted». Peter Raina’s book, reproducing the secret files kept on Lessing, shows that this was largely true, even though her emphasis in these troubled times was always on Peace. Lessing was eventually disillusioned by communism, and sought a better understanding of human relations than Soviet-conforming clichés could provide. However, her understanding was much enriched by the experiences of her activism and knowledge of the opposition it aroused. The secret files show how strongly Lessing followed her convictions and throw new light on how her perceptions of society evolved. Peter Raina elucidates this in a short Introduction and an Epilogue discussing aspects of her writings.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Heightened Interest and the Authors’ World Peace Delegation

Extract

Commander,

Special Branch

Dated: 27.3.50

Doris May Lessing, nee Taylor, formerly Wisdom, was a British subject by birth and was born in Persia on 22 October 1919. She was divorced by her second husband Gottfried Anton Nicolai Lessing during 1948. Mrs Lessing arrived in this country from South Africa in April 1949.

Gottfried Anton Nicolai Lessing was German by birth and was born at Leningrad, Russia on 14 December 1914; he arrived in the country from South Africa in May 1949. It is possible that he is now a British Subject.

According to information we have received, both Mr and Mrs Lessing are known for their Communist activities in Southern Rhodesia and we would be glad to know if they should come to your notice whilst in this country.

G. R. Lee←26 | 27→

To: SLO Central Africa

From: Director General

Dated: 22.6.50

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.