While I was doing my post graduate thesis in Doris Lessing, I had a tough time finding my primary source which is THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK. Now four years hence the book is available in every known& unknown bookshop. Lessing has had a long wait for the Nobel and perhaps no other writer deserved it more than her since she is the oldest person to have won a Nobel.
THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK published in 1962 did not immediately gain wide readership until the 1970s when feminists embraced the novel for its realistic portrayal of the life of single women trying to raise their children outside the boundaries of tradition. Lessing’s ‘Free women’ concept, in alignment with most feminist beliefs, helped not only to redefine sexuality issues but also provided literary models of the now famous motto “the personal is political” that so many feminist critics have maintained. Since then, the academic world has recognized the postmodern themes, narrative and structure of the novel.
Lessing, having established herself as a writer interested in politics and recognized and self-defined as an author of realistic fiction, offers a different approach to novel writing in THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK. The novel supports a postmodern view in characters, themes and structure. Not only the characters, but also the reader must question what is real and true- or more precisely, is there one reality and truth about any individual or event? Through Anna Wulf, the main character of the novel ,Lessing concludes that all human perceptions and recordings are imperfect and relative, and, any sense of order will eventually be replaced as new situations are encountered. Thus chaos is the order of the day.
The structure of the novel is quite innovative. This innovation is a result of the author’s compulsive desire to present experience in its fullness, examining and re-examining it from different points of view in an attempt to give unity to the fragmentariness of modern life. THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK chronicles the life of Anna Wulf, a writer and a single woman who lives with her young daughter in a flat, occasionally renting out a room, less for the income than out of a reflex of social obligation. Labouring against a writing block following the success of her autobiographical debut novel about a group of Communists in colonial Africa, Anna struggles to find a way to integrate the multiple selves that fragment her personality and make her life unbearably painful.
Out of fear of chaos, formlessness and of breakdown, she decides to keep four notebooks, one for each component of her life- black for her experiences in Africa; red for current politics; yellow for a fictionalized version of herself and blue for a diary. Although framed by a conventional novel called “Free Women” the point of the novel according to Lessing is in the relation of its parts to each other. By viewing her life from these different angles, going over her experiences, gauging her responses and carefully probing her intertwined layers of consciousness, Anna eventually manages to unify her identity in one notebook, the golden notebook. As she does so, she comes to terms with her growing disillusionment with Communism, the trauma of emotional rejection and sexual betrayal, professional anxieties and the tensions of friendships and family.
Lessing’s THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK goes beyond the feminists perceptions and probes deep into the female .Through Anna Wulf ,Lessing addresses and justifies the ongoing tug of war inside the female psyche. As women we are endowed with myriads of responsibilities and entities that go beyond our door steps, and Anna reaching that extreme of intolerance and disillusionment comes back to herself, victorious and very much at peace.