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Going Home Paperback – March 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A coda to the events portrayed in Under My Skin, which sold more than 30,000 copies and is considered one of the most prominent autobiographies of 1994, Going Home is Lessing's account of her return to Africa, the land of her youth.

About the Author

Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature, Doris Lessing was one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of our time, the recipient of a host of international awards. She wrote more than thirty books—among them the novels Martha Quest, The Golden Notebook, and The Fifth Child. She died in 2013.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060976306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060976309
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,362,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Philip Spires on November 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
It is fifty years since Doris Lessing published Going Home, an account of her return to Rhodesia, the country where she grew up. By then in her thirties, she had already achieved the status of restricted person because of her political allegiances and her declared opposition to illiberal white rule. These days Zimbabwe makes the news because of internal strife and oppression. It is worth remembering, however, that fifty years ago the very structures of Southern Rhodesian society were built upon oppression, an oppression based purely on race.

Fifty years on Doris Lessing's Going Home an historical record of this noxious system, a record that is more effective, indeed more powerful because of its reflective and observational, rather than analytical style. Doris Lessing, a one-time card-carrying Communist, laid a large slice of the blame for the perpetuation of discrimination firmly at the door of the white working class. Though not all white workers were rich - indeed she records that many were abjectly poor - what they had and sought to preserve was an elevated status relative to the black population. She describes white artisans as white first and artisans second. Though trade unions actively sought equal pay for equal work, they never campaigned for any kind of parity for black workers. On the contrary, they demanded the maintenance of racially differentiated pay rates. How's that for the spirit of socialist internationalism and brotherhood! (I accept there is a misplaced word there...). In fact Doris Lessing records that it was the relatively liberal capitalist enterprises that demanded more black labour, their motive of course arising from cost savings, not philanthropy.
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Lessing documents the nature of the political and cultural milieu of Southern Rhodesia in the mid-fifties. In many ways this is an excellent historical investigation in journalistic prose.

My concern is with the book's underlying assumption that that those who left Britain to occupy the colony either became less moral, or were already less moral, than those who stayed behind. Lessing tends to represent those who remained back in Britain as denizens of proper and correct behavior. Life in Africa is thus seen to exert a corrupting influence on otherwise wholesome and correctly mannered British people:

"Why was it that when white people came out from Britain, first they were indignant about the colour bar and the treatment of the Africans, and then they very fast became as rude and cruel as the old Rhodesians?" (p162)

I feel the book has the quality of being a bit dated for its moralizing perspective.

"Africa belongs to the Africans" and Europe belongs to the Europeans is the underlying premise of the book -- and although it is unspoken, it comes across in many different ways, such as in the formulation quoted above.

What needs to be examined, in order to give a sense of context to the book, is whether attitudes remain automatically "civilized" so long as they do not go abroad.

Also, are black Africans not similarly subject to "corruption" by virtue of living in Africa -- or is this corrupting effect of the continent only effective on the whites who have gone there?

Lessing's book attempt to teach a moral lesson about colonialism, but leaves these fundamental philosophical questions unanswered.
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