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Letters about The Good Terrorist


The Good Terrorist
Doris Lessing Writer
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The Marriages was hanging around for 10 years – The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five, for 10 years at least, with me simply not being able to do it. The opposite happened with The Good Terrorist. A friend of ours, a friend of... a friend... we were talking on the telephone... People do not remember now the Harrods bombing which was... it was quite an event when it happened. There was an extremely messy incompetent bombing at Harrods. Now, we had known for many years a... a girl who had become from the moment she grew up as a kind of... she became Alice in The Good Terrorist; that is, she was simultaneously saying things like, 'Well, come the revolution, we're going to have to kill 40 million people. Or, come the revolution, we've got to...' this kind of talk... the revolutionary talk when while looking after cats, dogs, old people, whales, and anything else, this... which seems to me an absolute... the essence of revolutionary movements. They have this double thing going – one thing, they are bumping off 30,000 of the bourgeoisie without... with no more than a shrug of the shoulders, when with the other thing, what they're doing is looking after stray cats.

And... now this girl, whom we've known for many years, she was currently at that time looking after a squat of, in quotes, revolutionaries somewhere or other. And she was always feeding them, looking after them, earning money for them, nursing them, etc, etc, while of course being ready to bump off 10 million people, come the revolution. So we were laughing about the Harrods bombing, my friend and I, and we said, 'Who on earth could have done such a stupid bloody thing?' It was a lot of blood and mess... killing for nothing. Now, the IRA at that time were very happy to claim responsibility for anything like that, and they instantly said, 'No, it wasn't us', with the superior intimation that they would never be responsible for anything as messy as that. I mean, if they were going to do a Harrods bombing, they would do it properly. So anyways, we said, 'I'll tell you who did it – Alice did it. Alice! Of course! Who else? Who else would do anything as stupid and incompetent and messy as that?'

And I put the phone down and I thought, my God, if there was ever a story, it's this one. So I started. Now, whereas I'd hung around for Marriage... Marriages for 10 years, or for The Fifth Child for God knows how long, I simply went to my typewriter and started to write The Good Terrorist with no interval at all. Why? I don't know why. It's just a very strange business, the whole thing ... the time a book takes, how long you have to think about a book, the depth about which you have to think about this book, how... what kind of level are you thinking about this book. I would say that Marriages goes as deep as I'm capable of going as a writer. The Good Terrorist I would say is fairly surface – I have to think about ... I was a communist at one point, I know all about communist groups, left-wing groups, all of that. The language is very similar to terrorist groups, which... I think I'm going to mention something rather interesting about The Good Terrorist.

British writer Doris Lessing (1919-2013) was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her novels include 'The Grass is Singing', 'The Golden Notebook', and five novels collectively known as 'Canopus in Argos'. She was described by the Swedish Academy as 'that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny'. Lessing was the 11th woman and the oldest ever person to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five, The Good Terrorist, The Fifth Child

Duration: 3 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2007

Date story went live: 21 October 2011