‘It’s a question of form’ (1993: 418). So declares frustrated writer Anna Wulf, in what remains Lessing’s most celebrated novel, The Golden Notebook. As this volume shows, the attempt to find forms which might record, model and engage historical change and all that it entails is one that persists throughout the six decades spanned by Lessing’s writing. The chapters that follow attend to the full weight of Anna’s statement: when Lessing’s writing turns towards history it is not simply a question of finding the literary form that might best represent it; rather it involves questioning the very relationship between form and history, as they are brought together afresh in each new work. These questions might be common to literary criticism, but the chronological breadth of Lessing’s career, and its sheer variety and productivity, makes them both particularly pressing and particularly enlightening in her work. As she moves from colonial Rhodesia to post-war Britain, and from war-torn Afghanistan to our posthuman future, her work employs the full panoply of techniques, modes, genres and effects that we refer to as forms: short stories, realism, serial fiction, documentary, drama, jokes, Sufi tales, reportage – and more....
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