The Good Terrorist

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Like many of the protagonists of the realistic novels which established Doris Lessing as a major novelist, Alice Mellings is a talented woman struggling to resolve the tensions between her personal and political commitments. Involved in a long-term but sexless relationship, Alice and her companion Jasper are charter members of a splinter Communist group occupying an old house in London as “squatters.” Eminently efficient, Alice sees to the practical details of communal living, while Jasper and several other commune residents pursue political fantasies that gravitate slowly toward terrorist activity.

Lessing emphasizes the naivete of the commune’s political position by balancing sympathy and admiration for Alice with an acute awareness of her self-indulgence, particularly in relation to her mother and father, whom Alice exploits without qualms. Contrasting sharply with the shadowy but hardened presences of the Irish Republican Army, the Communist Party, and the British government, the commune radicals emerge as little more than rebellious children capable of annoying the police but not of effecting real change.

Written in the realistic mode of Lessing’s five-novel sequence CHILDREN OF VIOLENCE, with which it shares many concerns, this novel nevertheless reflects the philosophical perspective of her more recent and highly controversial “Sufi/science fiction” sequence, CANOPUS IN ARGOS. Even as she portrays the suffering resulting...

(The entire section is 462 words.)