Being to Becoming: The Discourse of Self in Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook and Love, Again




Sanghamitra Sadhu


Dr. Sanghamitra Sadhu is an Assistant Professor of English in Cotton University, Guwahati. She is a former fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.




The article reads Lessing’s fiction in a framework that underscores writing as a medium to confront the self, and performance as a locus of self-recuperations. It contends that narrative identities blur authorial distinctions and the collapse of self-other binary in the narrative problematizes the realm of fiction and reality, as much as it complicates the narrative self, that stands at the interstices of history, fiction, and ideology. The article explores the dynamics of self and its narrativization in Doris Lessing’s fiction The Golden Notebook (1962) and Love, Again (1996) underlining that signifying the self in textual and visual medium is a complex project and crises in the self are accompanied by dispersion of language. While The Golden Notebook interrogates the problematic of self along with shifting conception of author; Love, Again explores the self that is put on performance with its ramifications of actors, narrator, author and spectators further implying the power of music, theatre and opera that can have affective bearing on the self. The paper argues that Lessing’s fiction is marked by a tension while rendering the self in its linguistics resonances and immediateness.

Keywords: self, narrative, performance, language, identity


The discourse of the self and the question of narrative authority assume a crucial significance in the writings of Doris Lessing (1919-2013), the Nobel laureate African-British writer of the post-war generation. The engagement with the self and its ontological possibilities in a challenging cultural zone, that has withstood variegated socio-political upheavals like settler colonialism, racism, gender crisis and other forces operative in the Southern Africa, calls for an analysis of the self’s complex negotiation with the other. The authorial self gives a vantage point to examine how identity as well as agency is constructed in European and Euro-African texts written by white African woman writers. In The Essential Gesture (1989), Nadine Gordimer raises the question “Where Do Whites Fit In?” (1959) and her question is directed towards the Euro-African authors who support or subvert the imperial claim to the continent or manifest an uneasy ambivalence complicit in the project of colonialism. Lessing articulates the difficulties of writing as a white person belonging to Africa. Claiming an African identity, Lessing, even though her experiences are personal, underlines the conflicting nature of articulating a story in a specific Rhodesian setting. Like Gordimer, who has experienced the apartheid, Lessing too, is a witness to the political turmoil of segregated Rhodesia. The construction of a narrative identity in a postcolonial set up is challenged in its plural antecedents and practices of race related mythologies in that questions such as who speaks for whom become problematic. The white African writers always carry the burden of what J.M. Coetzee calls ‘complicit colonialism’. Their voices of representation are always held suspect and the writer is always on the horns of dilemma regarding her writing position and hence attempts to establish the individual narrative self which is not constrained by the collective. In her writing, Lessing endeavours to establish an independent speaking/writing self that is not subject to the mandates of colonialism, racism, and patriarchy.

Writing about the self – its transition from being to becoming in the ambit of narrative  is a constant theme that Lessing engages in her fictional and non-fictional works. It veers around her early fictional works like The Summer Before the Dark (1973), the novel sequence  Children of Violence (1952-69) and The Golden Notebook (1962), and late works like Canopus in Argos: Archives series (1983-90), Love, Again (1996), and other non-fictional works including her autobiography. Claire Sprague (1990) traces Lessing’s depiction of a fractured and fragmented self in The Golden Notebook, a layered self in The Four Gated City, and a less central view of the self in the Canopus series. In Martha Quest Lessing develops the notion of the dialogic self through the portrayal of Martha that is transpersonal. In her works, Lessing’s concern has been to explore the possibility of delineating the fully realized notion of the self in writing. Writing that enables one to evolve into being is clearly reflected in The Golden Notebook – a work that examines the location of a writer in the post war situation and the crisis of writing in Britain in the 1950s and the 1960s. Located in the interstices of modernism and postmodernism the novel addresses the shifting contours of the notion of author through the character of Anna Wulf. The theme of mental breakdown which Lessing claims in The Golden Notebook as central to the novel is built around a series of notebooks written by Anna. Anna’s notebooks are a means of writing the self to overcome her self-disintegration. She simultaneously keeps four coloured notebooks – black, red, yellow, and blue and divides her self into four parts ascribing each notebook a distinct theme. The Golden Notebook with its unique formal and structural complexity incorporates five sections: each section is introduced by an episode entitled “Free Women” which finally makes up the short conventional novel Free Women. Each section of Free Women is further followed by episodes from each of four differently coloured notebooks. Finally, there is ‘The Golden Notebook’, the penultimate section of the novel The Golden Notebook. The various coloured notebooks include a diary, the partial and disrupted manuscript of a novel, a ‘historical’ and ‘factual’ record of events related to the Communist Party in London in the 1950s and the manuscript of the biographical details of the central character Anna’s life in Rhodesia. The novel further interrogates larger questions of truth, fact, point of view, realism, objectivity and so on, making the terrain of fiction and reality ever problematic.

In consonance with the poststructuralist ideas of author and subjectivity, The Golden Notebook brings to the fore how freedom for the writing subject emerges through the intermittent effacement of the self. The ‘Free Women’ sections in the novel ostensibly evoke the notion of freedom but freedom here signifies a chaos or ‘cracking up’ that accompanies the breakdown of social convention and disintegration of the individual. In the opening paragraphs of the novel Anna says to Molly, “the point is, that as far as I can see, everything is cracking up” (25). Anna seems to understand her world and her experience of the world as fragmenting and fragmented, where ‘unity’ remains an illusory fiction. Any work of art including the novel captures fragmentation as Anna maintains, “the novel has become a function of the fragmented society, the fragmented consciousness” (75). Anna’s notion of the fragmented self confirms the poststructuralists’ notion of subjectivity positing “a centreless dispersed subject who is literally a composite of various socially and culturally constructed roles or positions – not perspectives – that cannot be reconciled” (40). Hence, the narrative self veering around different subject positions can attain freedom without being constrained by any dominant ideology. In the preface to The Golden Notebook, Lessing concedes how an ‘author’ writing without being subjective could earn a greater sense of freedom. In section I of Free Women the narrator reiterates the effacement of Anna both within and outside the narrative. Anna, the writer “deliberately effaced herself and played to the dramatic Molly” (30), when the two would go out together. There are other occasions when Anna or her alter ego Ella is being effaced in the narrative. Throughout her notebooks and the ‘Free Women’ sections she appears faceless on the page. She undergoes ‘defacement’, to use Paul de Man’s term in that she obliterates her subjectivity. Roberta Rubenstein points out to the “dialectic between Anna’s projections and self-cancellations” which is formerly expressed through the self-canceling fictions that comprise the “layerings of the narrative” (102-103). With each notebook replacing another, the self undergoes erasure and selects an alternative. With each notebook that interconnects to and replaces another, the narrative self undergoes erasure and selects alternative representation. As Anna begins to record her literary experience in the Black Notebook, she confronts textual resistance, “I am incapable of writing the only kind of novel which interests me: a book powered with an intellectual or moral passion strong enough to create order, to create a new way of looking at life. It is because I am too diffused” (76). Throughout the narrative, Anna is in search of a writing that can capture her own self. Each notebook eludes truth that it claims to unravel. The provisional nature of writing in the notebooks allows Anna’s subjectivity ‘to be in process’, to use Julia Kristeva’s term, a subject which is not fixed but constructed, improvised and negotiated through reading and writing and therefore it is “constantly called into question”(129). At the beginning of the Blue Notebook Anna realizes that her writing undergoes displacement, and like Derrida’s ‘scene of writing’ her writing meets resistance to be transformed into signified systems.

I came upstairs from the scene between Tommy and Molly and instantly began to turn it into a story. It struck me that my doing this – turning everything into fiction – must be an evasion… Why do I never write down, simply, what happens...? Obviously my changing everything into fiction is simply a means of concealing something from myself (325).


Correspondingly, transition in the narrative whether at the thematic or structural level also hints at the provisionality of the narrative as well as the truths of life. The narrative transition in the novel also hints at a partial closure since one notebook is exclusive of the themes explored in other notebooks. However, one narrative closure creates another narrative opening and a new narrative identity of the self. Hence the effacement of the narrative self and closure of the narrative are closely connected. The juxtaposed sections from the notebooks interpolated with sections from Free Women and the multiplicity of the narrative self create a rambling narrative. Writing is conflated with Anna Wulf’s existence; indeed her existence is predicated to the fact that she is writing. With words losing their meaning and the narrative getting fragmented, Anna pronounces many times in the novel that she would write no more – “I shall never write another” (214) but eventually falls prey to her narrative compulsion. The theorists of ecriture feminine insist on the textual practice of writing the female body that subverts the coherence of language as a signifying system and assigns it with “a notion of feminine as subversion, a transgressive force linked with the realm of the mother’s body that continually threatens to disrupt the single fixed meanings of an authoritative and repressive phallocentric discourse” (Felski 23). Anna does write her body in the Blue Notebook, recording her physical symptoms of illness, her experiments with sex and pleasure, and even the details of her menstruation. Such a practice may lead the feminist critics to locate her in the domain of ecriture feminine. But the paradox is that Anna writes her body “without a body, dumb, blind” and articulates the impossibility of inscribing the body – its truthful depiction in art. What becomes noticeable in Anna’s case is the constant inscription and erasure of her self. As she mentions: “I am always having, as it were, to cancel myself out” (283). Self-effacement recurs in The Golden Notebook, and it becomes apparent that the Annas of the text engage in repeated self cancellation through writing. Nevertheless, the narrative self is not annihilated with each self erasure, rather it ensures its free movement within the constraints of the discourse. Anna as a writer struggles to distance herself from her subjective perception and develop an impersonal aesthetic that nevertheless emerges out of her personal and specific emotional experiences. Anna’s experiment with writing reinstates that the locus of writing no longer lies within a sovereign, unified subject but it emerges out of a split in the subject where its different facets enter into a conflictual discourse. Helene Cixous theorizes that the splitting within the subject is germane in the postmodern discourse of the subject and its enunciation. The writing subject or the narrative self is never the coherent “I”. Cixous formulates in Stigmata that writing consists of “inscribing the abyss we are” (42).

The displacement of the narrative self caused by its split goes beyond the present time and incorporates the past. Thus, the present tense in Anna’s commentary repeatedly resists the “I” in a uniform way and the text’s representation of ‘male’ subjectivities offer a critique of the unified subjectivity and further substantiates the problematic of the narrative identity of the self. When Anna rejects Saul Green’s “I” in The Golden Notebook, she reacts against not only his “I” but also her own “I”, which she believes, compromises her art. According to Anna’s logic, the artist needs to erase her “I” from the text, as it may prove detrimental to art.

The writer’s ‘strategy’ of self-effacement further leads to the notion that the text is the zone where the author can manipulate the meaning of the text and limit access to veracity. The narrative matrix produces a simulacrum of itself; disguises its recounting and effaces the act of writing. In this context, it is pertinent to refer to the Canadian writer Aritha Van Herk, for whom the ‘writing place’ is the ‘hiding place’ (21). Writing is both a record of compulsions and of resistances to write. The textual zone which is ostensibly a site of revealing the truth may function to obliterate the same. Anna’s writing fails to capture the truth about herself. Similarly, Janna, the protagonist in The Diaries of Jane Somers (1984), who claims writing as her ‘trade’ and obsessively notes down whenever any thought comes to her lest it does not ‘fly away’, discovers at the end that her novels are not a way of confronting the truth but of evading it. For Janna it is too heavy a weight to be transformed into language. The medium of language or more specifically writing is the field where the self reveals as well as hides itself in a dual process. However, this duality foregrounds the lack of control in the act of writing. The writer becomes a ‘scribe’ (in Cixous’ term) who writes down and records what surges up in her interior so that one does not write a text but it writes itself. Cixous’ conviction of a text that emerges by ‘creating itself’ is shared by Anna Wulf in The Golden Notebook. When Ella decides to write again, she searches for the text within her and which like an ‘interior scroll’ will gradually unfold and surface on the body of writing. In the Yellow notebook Ella meditates on a situation in which she might abandon her vocation, i.e. writing but it will not have much impact on her, as writing for Ella is less an act of creation than it is about recording the story already written in ‘invisible ink’. As Ella ponders, “…because of the act of writing it was irrelevant – it was not an act of creation, but an act of recording something. The story was already written, in invisible ink … well perhaps somewhere inside me is another story written in invisible ink …” (283). Foregrounding the writerly selves of Anna/Ella in their desperate attempts of self narration the text creates an illusion of rendering the truth, or what Ronald Sukenick calls “the truth of the page” (25). Performing the narrative through the entries of diary and journal creates the reality of the writing situation. The Golden Notebook creates an immediacy of writing process by recurrently invoking the act of writing through the border line of fictionality implying that the product of writing is more ‘real’ than the act of writing itself.

The narrative and structural complexity along with problematic theme of self-representation pervades Lessing’s Love, Again with a new dimension of the self. The schema of the narrative is much like The Golden Notebook : the novel’s protagonist Sarah Durham, a sixty-year-old professional writer-producer shares affinity with Anna Wulf of The Golden Notebook. Like Anna, Sarah’s vocation as a writer has been foregrounded in the novel, as she scripts plays for The Green Bird, a small London theatre group. She chooses to base her play on the romantic life and death of Julie Vairon, a historical figure of the French fin-de-siecle, who suffers failure in love and ultimately ends her life. Julie’s journals, her self-portraits, and music combined with Sarah’s rereading of those journals form the basis of her play. Julie’s compulsive nature to signify her self through narrative and visual modes overshadow the narrative: “She chose to live alone, paint and draw and compose her music and, every night of her life, write a commentary on it” (33). The narrative confirms a certain teleology of Julie’s drawing of self-portraits; she draws her self portraits compulsively in water colours, pastels, charcoal, and pencil not because she lacks a model, but she finds it as a means to discover ‘her real hidden nature’. Writing the self through the journal entries and through self portraits enables her to eschew the phases of her life she hardly liked, and grant certain power and freedom to her. Like Anna’s attempt to compartmentalize her writing by drawing a black line in between the notebooks, Julie’s rendition of different sketches of her life is also separately marked by a black line. The identity of the narrative self encompasses a double vision of the self – as  narrator and the narrated. The representation of the self in the self portraits and the journals adumbrates this double vision. In Politics of Postmodernism (2002) Linda Hutcheon points out the fissure between the self-image and the imaged self, between the represented and the representing self. The gap between the ‘true’ self and the projected self is pronounced by Anna Wulf: “When I read my notebooks I didn’t recognize myself. Something strange happens when one writes about oneself” (499). The problem becomes turgid when the written text has to negotiate with a different medium such as a film. In one episode in The Golden Notebook, Anna envisions the film versions of her book projecting Michael and Anna; Ella and Julia; Anna and Molly. But she feels the presence of the jeering projectionist (who runs the films of her past) laughing at the credit ‘Directed by Anna Wulf’ and mocking her with: “And what makes you think that the emphasis you have put on it is correct?” (537). In the course of Lessing’s narrative, Sarah frequently examines her ‘double’ – her reflection in the mirror and explores the different dimensions of her being. The fissure in the subjectivity as revealed in Julie’s journals, self portraits and music is amenable to the postmodern aesthetics of self representation: “It is hard, listening to her late music, to match with what she said of herself in her journal, and with her self-portraits” (27). At several points Sarah finds that Julie’s journals and self-portraits do not tally, the journals never mention of her dancing that is so conspicuous in her self-portraits. The construction of Julie’s subjectivity in her self-portraits ranging from an angel to an Arab girl with ‘a transparent veil’ indicates the plurality of subjectivity implicit in the postmodern self-representation. Apart from the self-portraits there is also a mention about the photographs of ‘real’ Julie. Barthes’ autobiography Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (1975) deploys both photographic and narrative representation, reminding that self-representation remains, in all modes, a contentious issue. The text announces in its epigraph that “all of this must be thought of as being said by a character in a novel”. Here the narrative self assumes the positions of narrator and character. This evasive technique is exemplified in Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse (1977) where sexual orientation of the protagonist is kept in dark by the narrative’s use of grammar from the original French. Various self-revealing modes create less an opportunity to reveal the self than to hide it, further reaffirming that signifying the self whether in narrative or visual medium remains a complex issue.

The discourse of self and its narrativization is more complicated in Love, Again. The novel narrates Julie’s attempt to inscribe her self in her self-portraits, journals, and extracted passages from the latter. Side by side, we have Sarah’s journal that keeps record of what happens in rehearsals and performances and her emotional upheavals toward the men in her life. The play ostensibly draws its source from Julie’s journals, her self-portraits and music but is modified/rewritten by the ‘co-authors’: Stephen and Sarah. All these heterogeneous writerly selves combined with both direct and indirect narration surge up in the novel, further indicating the problematic and complexity of a ‘unified’ narrative self. Like the final Golden Notebook which is co-produced by Anna and Saul, the script for Julie Vairon is co-authored by both Stephen and Sarah. Both these fiction problematize the self along with the issues of authority and subjectivity, questioning the very notion of a single and unified authorship.     

At one level, Love, Again revisits The Golden Notebook, but what is more important in the text is the self that is put on ‘real’ performance with its ramifications of actors, narrator/author and the spectators. The complexity of the narrative self is interpreted by Flanagan as the ‘multiplex self’ which has the power to capture the centrifugal forces of heterogeneous strands of life. In the essay “When Narrative Fails” (2004), J. Melvin Woody points out the power of drama, theatre, music, dance, and other spatial forms that can cope with the diversity of the ‘multiplex self’, especially when the narrative fails. Theatre orients the self to society by forming interactions with other selves, thereby establishing a dialogic relation between the actors and spectators. The fusion between the self and the world that the theatre incites enables the viewing self into ‘becoming’, to use Deleuze and Guattari’s term. The ‘becoming’ of a self, according to Deleuze and Guattari, enables the viewing self to undergo transformation in the process.

In Love, Again evocation of theatre in both literal and metaphorical levels further problematizes the correlation between narrative and theatre and the function of the narrative self in the matrix of theatre. The narrative evokes the idea of theatrical illusion, ‘theatrum mundi’, that life is just a spectacle. Even the characters in the novel blur the boundary between living and playing roles (echoing the writerly selves of Anna and Julie who erode the boundary between writing and living); they speak as if they were playing a role each moment of their lives. References to life as a stage overshadows the narrative, especially in Sarah’s comment that “there are times when everything seems like a film set or a stage set…” (58). The characters carry the baggage of allusions used in the specific dramatic convention. One of the characters is described as “rakish – it would have done well in Restoration comedy” (67); they seem to be living in a self contained world, completely isolated and apart from the quotidian life, where nothing but the role playing matters: “Perhaps the pleasure of any new company of people, particularly in the theatre, is simply this, that the families… are somewhere else, are in another life” (89). The interrelation between life and theatre in the novel is provided by Sarah, when she is considering the emotional loss and gain of being involved in show business: “The theatre, in short, was just like life…, always whirling people and events into improbable associations and then – that’s it” (191).  Such dialectic of theatre and life is best manifested in Charlotte Salomon’s Life? Or Theatre? – a brief autobiographical account of the writer that incorporates nearly eight hundred paintings with the subtitle, “a tri-coloured play with music” (43). Thematically, Charlotte’s text replicates Julie’s journals and self-portraits on the premise that one’s life is analogous to the other in that they haunt their works and the mind of the characters even after their death. Charlotte’s and Julie’s attempts to enact their lives through various artistic means raise questions about life, death and art carrying the implication that “performance and theatre are instances of enactments predicated on their own disappearance” (Phelan 2).

The modern theory of narrative relies on the belief that theatre is not just a convention outside the narrative, but theatricality is coded within the narrative. The notions of point of view, scene, perspective, and focalization refer not to the pictoriality of a text but to the theatricalized aspects of the text. In S/Z (1970) Barthes espouses that the representational codes are employed in a space whose model can no longer be the painting (the tableau) but is instead the theatre (the scene). Further, he obliquely refers to the scenic metaphors of textuality and writing pertaining to modern literary theory. The theatrical apparatus frames the elements of a text, disrupting traditional narrative codes and facilitates fragmentation, narrative discontinuity, and the negation of any teleology. The polyphonic textual effect of writing as well as language is manifested in the theatre by the scenic metaphors. The self reflexivity of a text or mise-en-abyme inherent in modern writing points to the ways in which foregrounding or ‘staging’ takes place in a text. The equation between theatre and writing is further reaffirmed by Derrida in “The Scene of Writing”. He emphasizes that Freud’s notion of the Darstellung of the psyche signifies not only representation but also ‘visual figuration’ as well as ‘theatrical representation’. For Barthes theatre is a ‘density of signs’, and it encompasses a wide space where all the divergent paths of writing cross. In Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, Barthes does not delimit the scope of the theatre; rather he promulgates its immense possibilities:

At the crossroads of the entire oeuvre, perhaps the Theatre: there is not a single one of his texts, in fact which fails to deal with a certain theatre, and spectacle is the universal category in whose aspect the world is seen. The theatre relates to all the apparently special themes which pass and return in what he writes: connotation, hysteria, fiction, the image repertorie (imaginaire), the scene, grace, the orient, violence, ideology…(177).


Theatre, for Barthes, is the unifying figure of writing that can contain diverse fields of study such as linguistics, cultural criticism, psychoanalysis, narratology, and so on. The semiology of the theatre dovetails with the theory of writing and justifies the novel’s inclusion of theatricality within it. However, it is important to analyze the connection of narrative self with the theatre within the parameters of a narrative.

Just as writing or textualization is the medium to confront the self, theatre also functions as a locus through which the self can recuperate and transform itself. The theatrical setting and its impact on the lives of the participants further exemplify psychological encoding underlying the narrative. By using the metaphor of theater, Lessing attempts to capture the indelible imprints left on the psyche of the characters. Lessing purposefully situates her ageing protagonist Sarah in the opera that works as a catalyst to heighten her emotional and long buried erotic feelings. Her emotional deprivation as a child has deeply affected her sense of the self, which has made her emotionally dependent on others. The narrative takes a detour in examining Sarah’s emotional life and retrospectively discovering the cause of her emotional wound. Sarah moving back and forth and in mining her childhood experiences develops a strong sense of loss: “Perhaps, the paradise we dream of when in love is the one we were ejected from, where all embraces are innocent” (181). Sarah’s descent into the vortex, during which she confronts her long-forgotten emotional experiences echoes The Golden Notebook, which records Anna’s fragmentations of self.

It is the power of collective theatrical experience that enables Sarah to come to terms with her own sense of self and devise ways to recuperate it.  It is Julie’s journals and songs that appeal Sarah to form an affinity with the Martinique lady and subsequently she (Sarah) begins translating Julie’s writings from the original French. Sarah feels oneness with Julie’s life and it is an opportunity for her to relive her own life: “Julie is that side of myself that was never allowed to live. The Jungians have a word for it. My anima” (62). Sarah was captivated by Julie’s life and worked becoming “part of Julie Vairon, day and night, indefinitely” (82). Beguiled by Julie, Stephen, the co-author of Sarah’s script, feels that both he and Julie are “made for each other” (48). The composite script of Sarah and Stephen brings together an international cast of performers over different locations such as France, a country estate in Oxfordshire and finally, London. The rehearsals performed in different locations create a bond among the company members – English, French, American and they are all united by Julie and do not want to part with. The play’s performance has its supreme effect on Sarah, the theatre-manager and the director who becomes engrossed in the performance of a scene that is close to her own life. In the course of rehearsals, Sarah herself sings for the cast her version of a song that accompanies the scene of Julie’s desertion by her last lover Remy. The enactment of Julie’s life has such an overwhelming impact on Sarah that she becomes almost a spectator to her own life. Sarah’s case can be interpreted in terms of psychoanalysis. Rubenstein points out that the narrative’s employment of theatrical metaphor on the wider stage of the city of London enables us to apply D. W Winnicott’s theory of psychoanalysis. In her essay “‘All the World’s a Stage’: Theatricality, Spectacle and the Flaneuse in Doris Lessing’s Vision of London” (2005), Rosario Arias views London as a potential space that renders creativity to the female flaneurs. Sarah as a flaneuse or spectator strolls around London; particularly Regent’s Park, watches others and becomes a spectator to the real life scenes. The city of London becomes a greater theatrical stage for Sarah in which she observes the sketches of real lives and develops affinity with them. The scene of the mother with her son and daughter in flashback kindles Sarah’s childhood memory while watching the scene she recognizes herself and creates a bond of sympathy with the child. In Playing and Reality (1971) Winnicott advocates a transitional space in which a moment of recognition is established between the mother and the child. Applying Winnicott’s psychoanalytic ideas to the episode in Lessing’s text we can say that a moment of recognition is established between Sarah’s subjective world and the objective world of perception. Sarah’s engagement as a spectator to real sketches of life as well as the performances in the theatre finds a creative relationship between the subjective and the objective world, finally, enabling her to re-experience life on those terms. So it is the subjective engagement with the outside world that enables her to relive her life and undergo a psychological healing of her wounded self. In her wanderings through the alleys of London and the theatrical performances on stage, Sarah tries to find an affinity with others. Diana Fuss, the poststructuralist theorist, stresses on the need of identifying with the others. In Identification Papers (1995), Fuss focuses on the process of identifying with other individuals and groups and argues that identification is the ‘detour’ that ‘defines a self’.

The Golden Notebook and Love, Again take recourse to the power of music and opera at the moments of self crisis of their protagonists. In the final section of the Golden Notebook, Anna seems to rely on the power of music when words fail to make sense of the world and subsequently she suffers mental breakdown: “she tried various passages of music, some jazz, some bits of Bach, and some Stravinsky, thinking that perhaps music might say what words could not…” (565). In Sarah’s case theatre works as a catalyst that brings out her long buried emotional grief, and its collective experience leads to the healing of her self.

In The Golden Notebook and Love, Again, Lessing puts more emphasis on mutation that the self undergoes in the process of creating an art form. It goes without saying that transformation of the self in the enclave of narrative is always followed by a positive value. Whether it is the medium of writing or theatre, the narrative self constantly endeavours to transform itself into an aesthetic product. Such an effort is clearly delineated in Lessing’s fiction that almost obliterates the demarcation between art and life. In his Nietzsche: Life as Literature (1985), Alexander Nehamas propounds a willful shaping of one’s life into an aesthetic product that endows it with meaning and importance. Nehamas maintains that, “the self, according to Nietzsche is not a constant, stable entity. On the contrary, it is something one becomes, something, he would even say, one constructs…” (7). Lessing precisely captures the Nietzschian notion of the evolving self, situating it in-between fiction and reality in the diverse manifestations, while examining its contradictions in a work of art.




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