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The Cleft (2007)

by Doris Lessing

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6573226,280 (2.8)55
Doris Lessing, one of England's finest novelists, invites us to imagine a mythical society free from sexual intrigue, free from jealousy, free from petty rivalries: a society free from men.

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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Piccolo saggio antropologico con venature “fantastiche”.

Osservando le foto di quella dolce vecchina che sembra essere stata Doris Lessing, che tanto mi ricorda la mia cara nonna ormai venuta a mancare e i suoi meravigliosi ravioli, ho provato un po’ di sconcerto leggendo alcune descrizioni riguardanti le curiosità scientifiche delle Cleft sugli “strani” attributi genitali dei Monsters.
È presumibilmente corretto pensare che questo tipo di esperimenti siano stati effettuati realmente, ma leggerli fa accapponare la pelle.

Interessante l’artificio letterario che fa di un senatore Romano, ai tempi di Nerone, il narratore delle storia. ( )
  Atticus06 | Jun 9, 2020 |
When I first read The Cleft, nine years ago, I described it as "bizarre but pleasant." It left no imprint on my memory, perhaps because I read it on a plane. Altitude amnesia. I feel a PhD dissertation coming on. Never mind. I am likely to remember the second reading slightly - slightly - more tenaciously, but not terribly fondly. I'm not a Lessing aficionado, though I studied The Summer Before the Dark in depth and with enthusiasm many (many many) years ago. That work was superb. The Cleft not so much.

It was a brave undertaking by Lessing. Like D. H. Lawrence in The Plumed Serpent she has to invent a mythology. Like D. H. Lawrence she doesn't succeed - though perhaps she is a little more readable, enjoyable. Were I re-reading The Plumed Serpent in the air I think I'd implore Quetzalcoatl or whoever - Cthulhu maybe - to crash the plane. But The Cleft simply felt labourious. Okay, vaginae and willies, clefts and squirts, we get that. Gender role archetypes, criticized here by other reviewers, were, well, largely a fact for better or for worse, so I get that too. Boys will sometimes be boys, because they stand up to pee or something.

For what it's worth I think Lessing is engaging in a phenomenological and etiological reading of religious history. Just wanted to say that. And, also for what it's worth, that's a time-honoured philosophical viewpoint. The reading of history she invents is fine.


I'm just not sure why we have some sort of ersatz narrative voice, a rather featureless first century well-to-do Roman citizen. The ancients' narratives are presented, occasionally critiqued or otherwise questioned, and I'm afraid this reader was left with a meh. Yes, females, once the word was invented, have clefts, and males, once they're invented (or survive female horror at their deformity) have squirts, and yes human beings have various volitions and I guess anti-volitions but goodness, is that the time?

In the end a cave goes "poof" and history continues. Or begins. Or something. Thanks for the memories. I'll re-read the very different Summer Before the Dark and The Cleft will lapse into aeronautically-induced amnesia (because as it happens I re-read it on a flight, too. ( )
  Michael_Godfrey | Jul 16, 2019 |
Doris Lessing is an author who’s always intimidated me, simply by virtue of having won the Nobel Prize and thereby, obviously, being a Great Name. I’ve been shilly-shallying over The Golden Notebook for the past few years, so when I stumbled across this curious book in a charity shop, I thought it could be an interesting way in. And, oh, it’s a very odd thing: part fantasy, part fable, part allegory. It focuses on the Clefts: a primitive society of parthenogenic women who only ever give birth to female children. And then, one day, a monstrous creature is born with horribly deformed genitals. The Clefts expose it, as they do all damaged infants, but then more of these Monsters are born and, before long, the Clefts find themselves struggling against the rise of a new population, who are so similar to them and yet so horrifyingly, incomprehensibly different: men...

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2018/07/27/the-cleft-doris-lessing/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Nov 7, 2018 |
Creation: Women first living in cave. Men separate
  sunflower1979 | Mar 18, 2018 |
A very unfortunate choice for a first book to read by Lessing. The premise of the book was promising--a retelling of the human origin narrative positing that women were once the only gender and exploring what happens when apparent genetic anomalies--men--begin to be born. This has a lot of potential. However, the book was incredibly unsatisfying and even offensive. Its totally essentialist and heteronormative views on gender reduce what could have been an interesting meditation on the relations between the sexes to an awkward and tedious farce.

It is also incredibly repetitive (possibly to echo the structure of the myths/epics it is inspired by, but nothing else in the rhythm of the prose seems to call back to that form, so it just ends up feeling like boring repetition). Reading it seemed to make the time go more slowly, an unpleasant sensation.

I hate to say it, but this book has totally turned me off of the desire to read any further works by this well-regarded author. It was that bad. ( )
2 vote sansmerci | Dec 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
It is incomplete; it is deeply arbitrary; and I see in it little but a reworking of a tiresome science-fiction cliché - a hive of mindless females is awakened and elevated (to the low degree of which the female is capable) by the wondrous shock of masculinity.
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Doris Lessing, one of England's finest novelists, invites us to imagine a mythical society free from sexual intrigue, free from jealousy, free from petty rivalries: a society free from men.

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An old Roman senator, contemplative at his late stage of life, embarks on what will likely be his last endeavour:the retelling of the story of human creation. He recounts the history of the Clefts, an ancient community of women living in a coastal wilderness, confined within the valley of an overshadowing mountain. The Clefts have no need nor knowledge of men - childbirth is controlled, like the tides that lap around their feet, through the cycles of the moon, and they bear only female children. But with the unheralded birth of a strange, new child - a boy - the harmony of their sexless community is suddenly thrown into jeopardy.
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