Time in circles
"Their faces are grave under their turbans, but
their eyes smile"
February 25, 2005
Doris Lessing in her book Time
Bites: Views and Reviews (Harper
Collins, London, 2004), pours out many of her inner
opinions, secrets, influences that had an impact on her life as
a writer, political activist, social commentator,
feminist, and above all human being who craves for something
Lessing, who was born in 22nd October 1919 in Kermanshah,
is an author of critically acclaimed novels, short stories, opera,
poetry and nonfiction. She is considered one of the greatest
writers of the 20th century.
Time Bites is a book like no other.
She talks about things that matter to her deeply in
essay style. Her prose is stylish
and, most importantly, intimate. It seems that she has done a full
circle returning to where she started; Persia, the country of her
birth as it was called then. Although she was only five when her
family moved to Africa, she still recalls some vivid memories of
the place in her book, Under My Skin,
the first volume of her autobiographical work, she writes,
There are memories
that have about them something of the wonderful, the marvelous.
A man, a gardener -- Persian -- stands
over stone water
channels, that come under the brick wall into the garden, bringing
water from the snow-mountains, and he is pretending to be angry
because I am jumping in and out of the delicious water, which
splashes him too. I am sent by my parents into the kitchen to
tell the servants,
that dinner may be served, and that is Tehran because I have
my brother by the hand, and I look up, up, up at these tall dignified
men and see that their faces are grave under their turbans, but
their eyes smile.
In Time Bites, a number
of essays are about Sufis and Sufi philosophy and poetry. Idries
Shah is another character
that she speaks with
fondness and reverence. Idris Shah is also quoted in other sections
of the book, as an authority. And there is Mullah-Nasrudin whom
writes, "Of all the literary forms used by the Sufis-parables,
anecdotes, conversational exchanges, recitals, stories-the 'joke'
merchant Nasrudin is the most remarkable."
Under the title "Books" she
equals the popularity of Animal Farm to World
Tales by Idries Shah. Dickens is someone
she owes the awaking of her social conscious to. And of course
Animal Farm, the most popular political novel in Africa.
She remembers the time when 'political writing' was synonymous
with Marxism. And she believes its heir today is political correctness.
a political thinker she is more shrewd and awakened as ever. "You
cannot legislate against terrorist groups once they come into being,
but you can prevent terrorists from coming into being," she
writes. "Ignorant armies like Taliban are not terrorists.
Saddam Hussein is not a terrorist, he is a brutal dictator, on
a model we are familiar with: Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot. Iran is
not a terrorist regime, though it may be sheltering terrorists.
It is another brutal regime whose human rights record, according
to the United Nations, is among the worst," she states bravely.
the section "A book that changed me," she writes, "I
had been looking about for a way of thinking, of looking at life,
that mirrored certain conclusions and discoveries I had made for
myself. But I could not find any thing appropriate." When
she finally does find the book it's The Sufis by Idries Shah.
This is a remarkable assertion.
Western writers for prejudice or
other reasons, shy away from divulging the influences of Eastern
thinkers on their work as if it's some sort of classified
information. The person that readily comes to mind is T.S. Eliot.
To some critics he was the greatest poet of the 20th century, but
hardly anyone knows that Omar Khayam
was a major influence on his work.
Although Idris Shah is not a major
influence on her work as such, but instead he fills the void of
her inner most being, explaining to
her the spiritual journey of the soul more profoundly than any
one else that she has read. I think this is what Time Bites is
about; she introduces herself to you as a person and not the writer
and shows you what she values most as a human being.