Doris Lessing, one of England’s finest living novelists, invites us to imagine a mythical society free from sexual intrigue, free from jealousy, free from petty. Sep 2, The premise of Doris Lessing’s new novel-as-creation-myth is that a towering cloven rock used for primitive religious rites: “The Cleft is us. The Cleft, by Doris Lessing. Sex and schism at the dawn of time. By Michael Arditti; Friday 12 January 0 comments.

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If the first half is speculative and disconcertingly dreamlike, the second is like a bomb going off. One of the main themes of The Cleft is that history is by nature subjective. Alfred Tayler and Emily McVeagh are the writer’s parents and this is a book of two halves – the first section is a novelist’s game of might-have-beens: Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing wields one of the most prodigious imaginations in contemporary letters, and she recognizes few boundaries when it comes to time or space.

She suggests that the capacity for cruelty and self-defence has as much potential to take hold of women as it does men. In the beginning, humanity was comprised solely of females who reproduced asexually. Men, our Roman says, find women’s nagging emotionality suffocating. By Heller McAlpin July 27, The nearly people who inhabit The Cleft are seen at a remove, but are, in any case, impossible to understand.

Are males basically competitive, irresponsible dreamers? But I also read it with great interest because Lessing has attempted something quite radical in imagining the evolution of human communities and accounting for the theory that men evolved from women.

I can totally see why we’d be discussing it in our gender class, but I have so many personal problems with the way in which this idea was handled, I don’t even know where to start. He nevertheless has a young, sexy wife, Julia, given to adultery, orgies and drinking. How many times do we have to read about the clefts going over the mountain to the squirts? He dwells on gender and family issues in both time frames and invokes more questions.


Doris Lessing has always been a novelist enthralled as much by ideas as people and, in her latest book, she more or less does away with people altogether. Lo que nos salva es que aprendemos, a contraviento, y que la consciencia de saberse humano es irrevocable. The Cleft offers more insight as an exploration of telling, than as a comment on gender difference.

Emily, however, is rendered with more ambiguity because she is several women in one, having had an amazingly busy girlhood, full of achievement, a nursing career during which she administered to Alfred, marriage and departure for Persia Iranwhere Lessing and her younger brother were born, and where Emily’s life as a social butterfly proves pleasurable, and their move to Rhodesia where, unable to have her dream of a colonial social whirl, she takes to her bed, suffering the inner ravages of the war that take Lessing years to see.

Jan 21, Sammy rated it liked it Shelves: Dec 01, Arf rated it did not like it. Feb 10, Kimi rated it really liked it. The roads Lessing travelled.

lessnig Lessing appears to have drawn her background from Elaine Morgan’s notorious pseudoscientific tome, The Descent of Womanwhich argues that human evolution was shaped by a seal-like return to the sea. Soon, as more boys were brought by the eagles, a tribe emerged.

Want to Read saving…. Doris Lessing asks us to imagine the Clefts, a primitive community of women who live in a coastal wilderness, free from the need, knowledge or complication of men. The second half is worth the price of admission, though the first, clefh half shows some flagging of energy. Meet the Clefts, as they call themselves after their characteristic genital declivity, a female tribe that as far back as memory goes gives birth to females only, fertilized, as they understand it, “by a fertilising wind, or a wave that carried fertility in its substance” The images of the original Cleft colony are striking: I’m going to stop before I frustrate us all even further.

The premise is simple: Yeah, Elssing, we get it.

Review: The Cleft by Doris Lessing | Books | The Guardian

The Cleft rewrites the story of creation through the eyes of a Roman senator. Would I do it now? Some male invented that — the exact opposite of the truth. Lessing’s The Cleft offers the reader an almost non-fiction account of an alternative creation story.


These two may in fact represent several persons, lines of descent wherein a series of leaders bear the same name. The trenches were as present to me as anything I actually saw around me.

If you said once, you said a gazillion times that when the clefts and the squirts started copulating the babies were different. In her account, her parents went there for no better reason than, on leave from Persia in London, they visited the Empire Exhibition at Wembley. As the story shifts to a second myth, the world becomes less magic and the two tribes are forced together over time. We’re soft and rotten, like a pear that’s gone past its best.

For some reason, the females lose the ability to have babies without male assistance and begin making forays over the dividing mountain to get pregnant. And if there are those who criticize us, then I have only one reply.

Women and children first

I like the author’s writing style and the premise of her novel is interesting what if the first humans were asexual females and suddenly started giving birth to male babies. Lessing’s novel proposes a new creation myth, one of a first race of females, the “Clefts”, that give birth to males, “Monsters” later, “Squirts”.

The only reason I gave it four stars is because the ending was ever so slightly predictable, or perhaps dragged out is the word I need, it was 10 maybe 15 pages too long for my liking.

Debra Adelaide is a writer and editor, whose last book is Acts of Dog Vintage. Other themes within The Cleft are perhaps more interesting; the way our narrator prods endlessly at the impenetrability of the past and creativity of historians.