Under My Skin, Volume 1: to 1949
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"I was born with skins too few. Or they were scrubbed off me by. . .robust and efficient hands."
The experiences absorbed through these "skins too few" are evoked in this memoir of Doris Lessing's childhood and youth as the daughter of a British colonial family in Persia and Southern Rhodesia Honestly and with overwhelming immediacy, Lessing maps the growth of her consciousness, her sexuality, and her politics, offering a rare opportunity to get under her skin and discover the forces that made her one of the most distinguished writers of our time.
after the garden, and sewed all morning. I made all the little outfits for John and the baby, Frank’s shirts and pyjamas, all my clothes and underclothes, aprons and shirts for the servants. When I did to go a women’s party I found myself unable to keep quiet about what I thought. It was known I had all these dangerous ideas … but what ideas? They were more a welter of emotion. Sometimes when I am interviewed, I am asked, How was it, brought up as you were, that you understood the society you
nations, but it’s a story of a tiny group of isolated people in a provincial town, whose every word, decision, action, is given the importance they would have in Moscow. Exactly: we are reading about the same psychological processes, the same group dynamics, that made and unmade the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Heroes and traitors, splits and heresies, martyrs and plots and intrigues – it’s all the same. Volume Three, not published till 1977, is No Home But the Struggle. The titles alone
Africans: they should be better paid and educated. N. H. Wilson was one of the middle-aged and elderly men who befriended me, this abrasive, bright, pugnacious young woman so unlike most colonial girls. Probably they harboured romantic fantasies, but I thought they were old. Now I see they were lonely: to be intelligent, well-read, world-minded men was in that town a recipe for loneliness. They liked to talk to me, invited me to tea at Pockets, or to visit them in their offices, lent me books,
only now imagining possibilities. ‘Why?’ my mother went on in a low appalled voice. ‘How could anyone in their senses do such a thing?’ I have never forgotten her incredulity. Capable people do not understand incapacity; clever people do not understand stupidity. My parents did not understand the Whiteheads, found them shifty and unsatisfactory, though soon they would become familiar with people who farmed, went broke, mined, succeeded, part-succeeded or went broke, farmed again, owned
visited a doctor and been equipped with birth control, the boy’s follies stopped just before the point of serious consequences. In a corner of the bush near the big land, I stood with my rifle loose in my hand, and suddenly saw my legs as if for the first time, and thought, They are beautiful. Brown slim well-shaped legs. I pulled up my dress and looked at myself as far up as my panties and was filled with pride of body. There is no exultation like it, the moment when a girl knows that this is