It was a rainy autumnal afternoon in Cambridge, and I was dwindling in a bookshop, browsing humanist psychology for my degree. I hadn’t found what I was looking for so I decided to leave and was approaching the front door when I overheard a gentle voice in the corner of the lobby. I turned to spy a small gathering of men and women around a signing of a new edition of The Golden Notebook. I drew closer and listened attentively to Doris talking. As I drew a little closer still I caught the words “the new man isn’t afraid to listen to us, he isn’t threatened by Feminism, he may even one day join us…” Let’s say I was warming to Doris at this point.
I later discovered that Lessing had also been influenced by Sufi mysticism, which had been introduced to her in childhood by the renowned teacher Idries Shah. Both Feminism and Sufism underpinned her belief in equality between the sexes and promoted better than any one else I know the dialogue of the committed relationship. Long before the generation of Women from Venus, Men from Mars, Lessing converted me.
Many years later, and a few brief email exchanges I’m still learning, I’m still working towards the great leap forward in every man, every woman.
Farewell Doris, and thank you.