Well, our poor Maureen has a funny head

“And then I read an essay by one of your writers who I think is fabulous but no one ever seems to read him, Loren Eiseley, the essayist, who writes about the past of America physically and – and he always – the end of an essay with something like this, I was going up from the seashore and I think it was on Maine on a country road and he saw this girl who turned her head and he saw the flaring eyebrow ridges and the back of her head and he said my God that is a Neanderthal girl, and went to talk to her, found her a simple ordinary country girl, and realised she could have lived all her life in that community and no-one would have ever said anything – well, our poor Maureen has a funny head – um, and then she turned and walked away from him in the dusk towards a light burning, and he said to himself, I could, this scene could have happened anytime in the last two hundred thousand years – this got to me – and I thought what about all the races who might be in us and we don’t know anything about […]”

Listen to the Doris Lessing interview with Don Swaim, June 1, 1988, RealAudio (35 min. 02 sec.) MP3 File



“No, you see, people always read messages and things, which I don’t intend. When I wrote that book, the journalists came and said, “Oh, well, of course it’s about the Palestine situation.” “Oh, of course it’s about genetic research.”

And I kept saying, “No, no. It’s a story. I’m a storyteller.” One of the things that sparked it off was, I was sitting in a dentist’s waiting room. And reading stuff, as– as you do. And there was a letter from a woman to some agony aunt. And the letter went like this.

It said, “I know you can’t do anything to help me, but I must tell someone or I will go mad. We have three children, and my fourth was born, this little girl. She is a little Satan. Our lives have been completely destroyed by her. She is a little devil. But sometimes at night I go into the room and I look at that pretty little face on the pillow, and I long to cuddle her. But I daren’t, because I know what would come up into my arms would be a spitting, hissing little devil.” Now, that got to me. Notice the religious language in that, which she probably wasn’t conscious of. So, I– I– I just had to write it.

You know, it is very enjoyable, writing a story. You get this idea. It takes hold of you. And then you spend day and night thinking about how to do it. And then you do it. And much later, you think, “Oh, yes. That’s an interesting question.”



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