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At the Periphery of Time: Doris Lessing and the Historical Novel

Doris Lessing’s early essay “The Small Personal Voice” is often considered the fullest elaboration of her realist aesthetics. Prizing nineteenth-century realism (Tolstoy, Stendhal, Balzac) as “the highest form of prose writing,” she criticizes two dominant trends in contemporary fiction, namely Soviet realism and European modernism: novels about collective farms and five-year plans are “dreadful [and] lifeless,” while the writings of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet, and Samuel Beckett are no better than “despairing statements of emotional anarchy.”[1] Written in 1956, such remarks are hardly unique. As Joe Cleary has shown, midcentury European critics such as Erich Auerbach and Georg Lukács were wary of “modernism on the one side, Stalinist socialist-realist orthodoxy on the other.”[2] According to Cleary’s diagnosis, these critics’ defense of realism bespeaks deeper anxieties about the waning of European imperial hegemony. Since the classic realist novel establishes “a confident sense of ‘the real’ only by foreclosing its optic on the world beyond Europe and by largely repressing the business of imperialism,” the so-called crises in realism can be more accurately described as symptoms of unsustainable concentration: European literature can no longer close off its representational optic from the rest of the world (Cleary, “Realism” 260). Lessing’s remarks on realism, however, differ from those made by her continental counterparts in precisely this aspect. She valorizes realism not because it encourages a realignment of narrative focus from the global to the local. Instead, the problem she sees in contemporary British fiction is its profound parochialism. As someone “coming in from the outside,” Lessing marvels at the British public’s ignorance of the happenings and discourses in “what is politely referred to as the Commonwealth” (“Small,” 17). Her belief that realism can “enlarge one’s perception of life” thus has strong geopolitical resonance in the 1950s. She calls for a realism that brings into view, rather than occludes, the complex realities across Britain’s not-yet-former empire.

But perhaps what is most intriguing about this manifesto is how much it departs from Lessing’s actual fictional output. Many of her mid-career novels such as Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) and The Summer Before the Dark (1973) have much in common with Sartre and Beckett. Her most famous novel, The Golden Notebook, is often studied through the lens of modernism or postmodernism. The one work that aligns most closely with her views in “The Small Personal Voice” is her five-part novel series Children of Violence. Published from 1952 to 1969, the novels trace the protagonist Martha Quest’s journey from an African colony modelled on Southern Rhodesia to postwar England. Chronicling the last decades of British rule in Africa, the entire series can be read as a historical novel about imperial contraction. Yet Children of Violence is not simply an offshoot of the nineteenth-century genre most memorably theorized by Lukács; Lessing deploys an unusual temporal form intimately shaped by her colonial upbringing, an experience that, in the wake of decolonization, has had its day. By attending to the peculiar temporality of the Martha Quest novels (and the last volume The Four-Gated City in particular), I situate Lessing in recent debates on realism and modernism.[3] Many scholars have put pressure on the realism/modernism binary that has shaped the periodizing and disciplinary boundaries of literary studies for decades. For nineteenth-centuryists, Victorian realism is formally reflexive, multifaceted, unstable, and as experimental as modernism. For twentieth-centuryists, the various realism debates from the era of New Imperialism through the Cold War to our contemporary moment reflect large-scale geopolitical shifts. Lessing offers an interesting case study because of her own oscillation between realism and modernism. The wager of this essay is that the conventional distinctions drawn between realism and modernism must be adjusted once we move from the metropole to the periphery. Such distinctions, whether conceived in chronological or oppositional terms, only make sense in metropolitan contexts. For Lessing as well as host of colonial writers like her, social life at the periphery eludes the spatiotemporal coordinates of metropolitan literary forms. Realism performs a different task when it is relocated—or exiled, so to speak—from the metropolis. Lessing’s practice of realism, then, should be considered a geopolitical aesthetic in its own right.

Historicizing “Historical Time”

If we can read Children of Violence as a composite historical novel, that is not only because of its historical span but more importantly because Lessing formalizes a specific perception of time peculiar to the colonial periphery. For Lukács, the historical novel is the very foundation of realism. Walter Scott, the pioneer of the historical novel, develops a technique through which the traits and habits of his characters embody the historical peculiarity of their age. His novels represent a new historical consciousness, a new awareness of human progress, that is absent in earlier fiction. The realist masterpieces of Balzac and Tolstoy, according to Lukács, elevate Scott’s achievements, which, in Hegelian terms, represent a capacity to see “the total life of humanity as a great historical process.”[4] The central criterion with which to distinguish a genuine historical novel from an inadequate one is the proper representation of historical time: the past must be shown as the prehistory of the present. Lukács favors the word “necessity” in his theorization of historical progression. Balzac’s realism, for instance, stems from his ability to see “the necessity of the historical process, the necessity for the present to be as it was [. . . and] the infinite net of chance which formed the precondition of this necessity” (Lukács, Historical Novel, 83). It is “this concentration in time” that gives La Comédie humaine its aesthetic unity (83).

Interestingly, Lukács also introduces the Hegelian concept of “necessary anachronism” to explain why Scott’s characters seem more psychologically advanced than the actual people of their times. For Lukács, this psychological anachronism does not disrupt Scott’s historical consciousness. Rather it is only an artistic method to show the “correct” perception of history. Far from confusing historical relations, it strengthens them: “Scott’s ‘necessary anachronism’ consists, therefore, simply in allowing his characters to express feelings and thoughts about real, historical relationships in a much clearer way than the actual men and women of the time could have done” (63). In contrast to Scott’s anachronistic method, Flaubert’s Salammbô exhibits a more damaging form of temporal confusion. He treats history in a decorative manner while modernizing the characters’ psychology, presenting a “frozen, lunar landscape of archeological precision” that bears no relation to the author’s historical present (189).

Lukács’s account of the historical novel is thus underpinned by a theory of historical time. But how did time become historical? Though Lukács’s conception of time derives from Marxist teleology, the breadth of his survey in The Historical Novel calls for a more robust historicization of historical time. As Reinhart Koselleck has argued, the notion of historical time only makes sense when it is distinguished from lived time, biological time, and natural time. “Historical time, if the concept has a specific meaning, is bound up with social and political actions, with concretely acting and suffering human beings and their institutions and organizations,” he writes.[5] We have to ask what “social and political actions,” what “concretely acting and suffering human beings,” and what “institutions and organizations” contribute to the specific temporality that defines the historical novel. In fact, Lukács has offered a tentative answer to this question: the narrative representation of historical transition and progress depends on the “national idea” (Historical Novel, 25). Though his discussion of this subject is brief, many commentators have stressed the centrality of the nation-state to Lukács’s theory. Perry Anderson, for instance, calls the historical novel a product of romantic nationalism. Scott’s use of medievalism establishes the triumph of an English national identity over the Norman invasion, while his Highland novels enfold the distinct trajectory of Scotland into a larger national history.[6] Similarly, Ian Duncan regards the nation as the historical referent of Lukácsian totality: in Waverley, modern nation-state formation “gives form to” and even “stabilizes” the protagonist’s chaotic development.[7] It is only when historical time is bounded within a concrete national space that it becomes meaningful and narratable.

If we accept Lukács’s observation, then what lies outside the boundary of national-historical time? Given his insistence on the unity of social existence and the universality of historical development, Lukács would have little to say in regard to this question. Yet for many English and non-English peoples across the world who grew up in the shadow of British rule, life revolved around a country they had long left or even never set foot in. In Children of Violence, Martha is the daughter of an English couple who migrated to Africa in the 1920s. Although she firmly rejects her parents’ values, their separation from England instills in her a nostalgia for a country she has never visited. She is indifferent to her father “reading a book printed by a certain society which held that God had personally appointed the British nation to rule the world in His Name, a theory which comforted his sense of justice.”[8] Yet his reminiscences of England hold her transfixed: “The rain is different there—things smell after rain. There’s nothing like the smell of the earth after rain in England.” [9] In this rare moment, England becomes an imaginary space in which Martha shares an otherwise unavailable intimacy with her father:

He continued to talk about England. He did not once mention the African farm on which he had lived for all those years. Martha listened, circling her stomach with her forearms, while with one half of her mind she saw a boy running wild across an English farm, fifty years before, and ran with him, tasting faint and exquisite dews, feeling long lush English grass around her ankles. With the other, she was indulging in the forbidden pleasure of nostalgia. (Lessing, Proper Marriage, 129)

Their present life in Africa is wholly bracketed, while Mr Quest’s past life in England appears eternal and ageless. It is noteworthy that Martha cannot properly explain her nostalgia. Later on, when she awakes from a dream charged with a “peculiarly nostalgic quality,” she is confused why “that country” keeps coming back to her: “Well, I suppose it’s England . . . but how can I be an exile from England when it has nothing to do with me?”[10] Her nostalgia is a “forbidden pleasure” because she is not entitled to it: hers is a nostalgia for a past to which she has no claim, an illegitimate longing for a home she has never inhabited.

In Children of Violence, to be at the periphery of empire is to be at the periphery of time. While Lukács’s theory of the historical novel and of realism at large presumes an even distribution of time within the nation (anticipating Benedict Anderson’s account), Lessing’s novels make legible the uneven temporalization of reality across the British empire. Martha’s time in Africa is accompanied by a persistent sense of untimeliness. I read this untimeliness both as an actual historical experience in the colonial periphery and as a narrative chronos that allows for a distinct representation of historical change. Colonial untimeliness, as we will see, structures The Four-Gated City’s narration of imperial decline and displaces the metropolitan perception of “the end of empire.”

“The Colonial’s England”

Colonial untimeliness, as a deviation from normative historical time, is most productively read à la Lukács (as opposed to, say, Bergson) because a Lukácsian framework prompts us to take into account the geopolitical differentiation of time within the totality of empire. In fact, untimeliness has a particular valence on the cultural making of Lessing’s Rhodesia. Cecil Rhodes, who founded the country in 1890, hoped to “create a great colony of permanent settlement for the British race.”[11] Southern Rhodesia prided itself on maintaining its rigorous Englishness: Rudyard Kipling once called the country “the last loyal white colony” (Quoted in Lowry, “Rhodesia,” 128). Historians have highlighted the many ways in which the political development in Southern Rhodesia in the sixties diverged from the pattern of decolonization in the rest of Africa.[12] In her fictional rendition of Rhodesia, Lessing captures its peculiar brand of Englishness: during the Battle of Britain, the Zambesians greeted British soldiers as “our boys” with great enthusiasm because “[f]ew of them [the locals] had not been brought up with the words ‘Home’ and ‘England’ continually in their mouths, even if they had not been born there” (Proper Marriage, 164). Yet we also learn that “the colonial’s England,” frozen in time and immune to historical change, is not the same England from which the British soldiers came.

In the first four volumes of Children of Violence, England is not simply an imaginary homeland, but provides a structural and referential coherence solely by means of its absence: it functions as a negative form around which time is organized. In England (or more precisely, “the colonial’s England”), time is full, immanent, and meaningful. In Zambesia, time is barren and unfulfilled. Colonial untimeliness defines the house in which Martha grew up: “the family lived here without really living here. The house had been built as temporary, and was still temporary” (Lessing, Martha, 20). Although there is no foreseeable end to that temporariness, Martha knows that “this was not really her home . . . to [her] neighbours, this house seemed disgracefully shabby, even sordid; but why be ashamed of something that one has never, not for a moment, considered as home?” (21).

It is no accident that we should see Martha reading a biography of Rhodes before we are introduced to her house. The tension between the protracted temporariness exhibited by Martha’s house and the rhetoric of “permanent settlement” popularized by Rhodes underlies Martha’s self-formation. Rebelling against the colonial mentality shared by her parents and neighbors, Martha can only transcend her deep-seated untimeliness by returning to England. Her homecoming in The Four-Gated City thus represents a long-awaited event that promises to resolve the conflict between colony and England. Strolling along the Thames, “she had left ‘home’ to come ‘home’”—that is, to her true home in London, “the hub of the Empire,” “the greatest city in the world.”[13]

At first glance, Martha’s quest for England seems to be yet another example of English national retrenchment. The midcentury imagination of a “shrinking island,” as Jed Esty famously argues, represents a “discursive process by which English intellectuals translated the end of empire into a resurgent concept of national culture.”[14] However, while metropolitan writers can confidently translate imperial decline into national revival—or even choose to forget or ignore the imperial past and celebrate the happy unity of Little England—writers from the colonies cannot claim that privilege. Lessing’s critique of English parochialism signals her ambivalence about this redemptive empire-to-nation narrative, and that ambivalence finds its fullest expression in the formal peculiarity of The Four-Gated City. Martha’s journey from her provisional home in Africa to her permanent home in England is by no means linear. Far from being a resolution, Martha’s “homecoming” poses a narratological problem that arises from the incompatibility of colonial history and national history. Despite its constitutive role in the making of English society, the colonial past—to use Lukács’s language—cannot be narrativized as the prehistory of the post-imperial present. Martha can neither relinquish her colonial subjectivity nor reconcile her past life in Africa with her new life in England. Arrival in the metropolis, it turns out, fails to redeem the predicament of colonial untimeliness.

In fact, Lukács has already hinted at this problem: the metropole-periphery tension in Children of Violence exists in Scott’s Waverley novels as well. Even though Scotland is an internal periphery in the United Kingdom, Lukács is surprisingly indifferent to Scottish history in his analysis of Scott. “Scott sees and portrays the complex and intricate path which led to England’s national greatness and to the formation of the national character,” he writes (Historical Novel, 54). By associating the “national” exclusively with England, Lukács has to dismiss the integrity of Scottish national history: “The clans are, of historical necessity, always the exploited, the cheated, the deceived. Their very heroic qualities which stem from the primitiveness of their social being, make them the toy of the humanly far inferior representatives of the ruling powers of the given stage of civilization” (57). Lukács’s point about Scottish “primitiveness” accurately reflects Scott’s narrative strategy. As Tom Nairn writes, “For Scott, the purpose of his unmatched evocation of a national past is never to revive it . . . On the contrary: his essential point is always that the past really is gone, beyond recall. The heart may regret this, but never the head.”[15] Katie Trumpener contrasts Scott’s historical novels with contemporaneous “national tales” to demonstrate how Scott subsumes the narrated past of Scotland under the narrative present of England. While Scottish national tales by John Galt and Sydney Owenson emphasize “the thickness and jaggedness of lived history,” Scott the historical novelist “privileges the perspective of antiquarian narrators over that of historical participants, for the intellectual complexity of the act of historiographic assembly potentially exceeds the psychological complexity of historical experience itself.”[16]

Lukács’s valorization of Scott’s historical novels thus entails a deliberate preference for metropolitan linear time over the uneven temporality of the periphery. The “unity of time” that defines the historical novel, then, is the result of a critical selection. What distinguishes Lessing’s The Four-Gated City as a historical novel is its refusal to transcend colonial untimeliness. Martha’s arrival in England only confirms her perpetual alienation from English national time. Instead, Lessing shows the colonial as a stubbornly non-progressive figure. Midway through The Four-Gated City, Mrs Quest travels to London to see her daughter while contemplating her own alienation from England. She ponders over the different meanings attached to the words “Empire” and “Commonwealth,” and is at a loss reflecting on the fates of those young Britons who left England half a century ago for opportunities in the far reaches of the world (Lessing, Four-Gated City, 281–93). As we learn from the previous volumes, she spent her adult life managing a household in Africa: “For years Mrs Quest had run things, managed things, arranged and planned and organized.”[17] She is a classic practitioner of imperial domesticity, which, as many scholars have shown, represents a coherent ideology that buttressed the legitimacy and longevity of British overseas rule. The warm, well-organized colonial household harmonized the messy, unpredictable process of conquest and expansion.[18] While imperial domesticity aims to reproduce Englishness at the periphery of empire, its very separation from England also imbues it with a distinct temporality, as exemplified by the protracted temporariness of the Quests’ house. For Mrs Quest, perpetuating everyday order is the only way to defer the demise of empire. She strives to preserve a sample of Englishness that, dislocated and fossilized, would inevitably be beyond recognition on British soil. Her work in the colony is barred from any symbolic assimilation into national life once the imperial system unwinds.

Mrs Quest is locked in time, unable and unwilling to confront the historical change implied in her daughter’s repatriation to England. In the end, she can only go back to Africa. Martha seems to choose a different path as the novel begins. During her walks in London, she contemplates the long history of the English race: she imagines the city as a “section map” existing “in the minds of people who have lived in such and such a street since they were born,” and marvels at the “race . . . that filled their river with garbage and excrement and let it run smelling so evilly between the buildings that crystallized their pride, their history” (Lessing, Martha, 18, 25). Preoccupied with the continuity of English history, she nevertheless stops short of full integration into national time. If “History is now and England”—to quote from T. S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”—then Martha distances herself from the now-time of the nation, and instead clings to her own formative untimeliness.

The Untimely Housekeeper

The bulk of The Four-Gated City takes place in an English family house, where Martha works as a secretary, housekeeper, and caretaker for writer Mark Coldridge and his family. Her career choice has puzzled many readers, who criticize her for unoriginality and passivity.[19] But what seems to be a characterological problem may be usefully reframed as a narratological one. Martha’s move into Coldridge’s house brings about a structural change in the novel series. Seeing it for the first time, “She felt attacked by the house—claimed” (Lessing, Martha, 99). Coldridge’s house not only curtails the freedom she enjoyed earlier, but it also replaces the trope of personal journey as the central schema for organizing narrative time. Martha now aims less at finding a home for herself than at maintaining a home for others. As an “onlooker,” she glimpses into “a view of life where the house and the people in it could be seen as a whole, making a whole” (213). She must work to bring that vision of wholeness into reality.

Martha’s residence in Coldridge’s house is set against the massive changes taking place between 1950 and 1968. Although the narrator takes note of the Suez Crisis and the wave of decolonization in Africa and Asia, “[a]pparently nothing very much changed in the house in Radlett Street” (308). This lack of change is the peculiar achievement of Martha’s housekeeping, which produces a suspended present, an endless chronos that does not accumulate into linear historical time. The actual house is in a state of dereliction, and the Coldridge family is on the verge of dispersal. It is Martha who keeps things in order:

All the house was like this, nothing obviously breaking or peeling, but everywhere was shoddiness and shabbiness, and there seemed to be no centre in the house, nothing to hold it together (as there had been once when it was a real family house?). It was all a mass of small separate things, surfaces, shapes, all needing different attention, different kinds of repair. This was the condition of being a middle-aged person, a deputy in the centre of a house, the person who runs things, keeps things going, conducts a holding operation. (371)

What warrants attention here is Martha’s obsession with the idea of a “centre.” The logic of managing a house in order to bring about a center aligns her with her mother: she is to run an English family house—full of “shoddiness and shabbiness”—just as Mrs Quest maintained their “shabby” and “sordid” home in Africa. But there is a crucial difference: Mrs Quest’s imposition of domesticity springs from her sense of entitlement as a settler, whereas Martha’s effort is motivated by the prospect of discontinuation. Martha’s housekeeping redefines her “homecoming”: arriving at the center of an empire that no longer has a center, Martha acts as its “deputy” so that a center can still be imagined. After all, it is the colonial’s job to prolong the existence of the empire, and Martha is not alone: Rita, a compatriot from Zambesia, later joins her and “took over the house without being asked: she felt, it seemed, that if a house was there to be run, then obviously it was her place to run it” (597). The stubborn presence of the colonial housekeeper in The Four-Gated City counters the teleology of the “end of empire”: in Coldridge’s house, the colonial’s England endures. But this bespeaks not evasion but a hyper-awareness of historical change: Lessing cannot put an end to empire because the colonial past cannot be fully absorbed into the post-imperial present, and that failed integration results in a temporal disorder that shapes the peculiar form of the novel.

In The Four-Gated City, managing an English house becomes a way of managing time. The colonial’s England finds a second life in the futuristic “Appendix,” where we learn that the British Isles have been destroyed in a catastrophe, though Martha and a few members of the Coldridge family survive. This apocalyptic section has often been read in a prophetic vein, as a forebear to Lessing’s later venture into science fiction.[20] Yet the Appendix also describes the years leading up to the catastrophe. The Coldridges move to Wiltshire, the mythic land of old England. Many people leave the country to “set up everywhere communities bearing such names as ‘Little England,’ ‘Newest England,’ and ‘England Again’ which are more English than England ever was” (Collins, “Horizontal,” 635). What’s more, “parts of Africa once bitterly antagonistic to Britain now indulge in a sentimental nostalgia for an England that never was, and a breed of administrators that never were” (635). For Lessing, empire must start all over again in order to die a second time. Revival is only a prelude to total destruction.

In Children of Violence, Lessing resists the parochialism afflicting post-imperial English fiction by formalizing an experience of time unamenable to or even unimaginable within the national space. If colonial untimeliness is a product of uneven temporalization across empire, Lessing’s realism offers crucial resources for restoring its historicity. The “time-cult” with which Wyndham Lewis famously defines modernism—and which has been powerfully examined through trauma theory and ecology in recent scholarship—has radically different origins and ramifications outside the imperial metropolis. By placing Lessing’s untimely historical novel in dialogue with the recent scholarship on realism by Joe Cleary and others, we can see that the realism/modernism dialectic is geopolitically determined—determined by the time and location of textual production and of scholarly analysis. Instead of blurring the line between these two categories or even collapsing them altogether, I propose that an attention to their changing relations across history and geography can generate important insights into the worldliness of literary form.


[1] Doris Lessing, “The Small Personal Voice,” in A Small Personal Voice (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1974), 3–21, 11–13.

[2] Joe Cleary, “Realism after Modernism and the Literary World-System,” Modern Language Quarterly 73, no. 3 (2012): 255–68, 260.

[3] The realism/modernism debate is the subject of two recent special issues: “Peripheral Realisms,” ed. Jed Esty and Colleen Lye, Modern Language Quarterly, 73, no. 3 (2012); and “World Realisms,” ed. Lauren Goodland, NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, 49, no. 2 (2016).

[4] Georg Lukács, The Historical Novel, trans. Hannah Mitchell and Stanley Mitchell, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983), 29.

[5] Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 2.

[6] See Perry Anderson. “From Progress to Catastrophe,” London Review of Books, July 28, 2011, 24–28. Citing a more recent example, Anderson identifies in Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairene Trilogy “a powerful underlying narrative of progress, however halting or ambiguous, towards national emancipation” (27).

[7] Ian Duncan, “History and the Novel After Lukács,” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 50, no. 3 (2017): 388–96, 391.

[8] Doris Lessing, Martha Quest (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 89.

[9] Doris Lessing, A Proper Marriage (New York: Penguin, 1964), 129.

[10] Doris Lessing, A Ripple from the Storm (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995), 113.

[11] See Donal Lowry, “Rhodesia 1890-1980, ‘The Lost Dominion,’” Settlers and Expatriates: Britons over the Seas, ed. Robert Bickers (London: Oxford University Press, 2010): 112–49, 122.

[12] See, for example, Luise White, Unpopular Sovereignty: Rhodesian Independence and African Decolonization (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2015). White argues that the linear narrative of colonies becoming nation-states fails to explain the “awkward and uneven” history of Rhodesia (Unpopular, 4). The signing of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965 was a rebellion against “the orderly process of decolonization” (22). Rhodesian politicians did not want national sovereignty but membership within the British empire.

[13] Doris Lessing, The Four-Gated City (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995), 25, 31, 42.

[14] Jed Esty, A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 2.

[15] Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain (London: Verso, 1981), 103.

[16] Katie Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), 152.

[17] Doris Lessing, Landlocked (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995), 304.

[18] For an influential account of imperial domesticity, see Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York: Routledge, 2013). During the Victorian era, the “obsessive tidying and ordering of ornaments and furniture” in the English household, as well as the precise measurement and scheduling of servants’ work, became spectacles of domesticity disseminated across the empire via advertisements, newspapers, novels, and other print media (McClintock, Imperial Leather, 168). In a similar vein, Alison Blunt argues, “Domesticating the empire to provide ‘legitimate and natural homes’ for colonists depended not only on masculine discourses of imperial adventure and energy, but also on more feminized discourses of domesticity” (Alison Blunt, “Imperial Geographies of Home: British Domesticity in India, 1886–1925,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 24, no. 4 [1999]: 421–40, 421–22).

[19] For a useful discussion of the criticism on the character of Martha and the style of the novel, see Gayle Greene, Doris Lessing: The Poetics of Change (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), 75–78.

[20] See, for example, Cornelius Collins, “‘A Horizontal, Almost Nationless Organisation’: Doris Lessing’s Prophecies of Globalization,” Twentieth-Century Literature 56, no. 2 (2010): 221–44.