Home > Uncategorized > Doris Lessing: With war every event has the quality of war, nothing of peace remains

Doris Lessing: With war every event has the quality of war, nothing of peace remains


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war


Doris Lessing
Excerpts from interview with the Public Broadcasting System, 2003

The World War I, I’m a child of World War I. And I really know about the children of war. Because both my parents were both badly damaged by the war. My father, physically, and both, mentally and emotionally. So, I know exactly what it’s like to be brought up in an atmosphere of a continual harping on the war.

He [her father] was obsessed with it. He talked and the other old soldiers in you know the district I was brought up in – there were half a dozen of them. The obsessive talking about the trenches, and their generals and so on. And I used to listen, it was terrible, you know? These men were – had been so traumatized. Though, of course, outwardly, they were very civilized and good and kind and everything. But in actual fact, they were war victims.

Well there, he was in the Royal Free Hospital in London – where he – when they’d cut off his leg. And the – and – the sister – there is my mother. She – was a ward sister. And – so, they got married.

Well, my mother was going to marry a young doctor who was sunk in a ship. And I don’t think she ever really got over that. I think she was very marked by it.

Other quotes:

In times of war, as everyone knows, who has lived through one, or talked to soldiers when they are allowing themselves to remember the truth, and not the sentimentalities with which we all shield ourselves from the horrors of which we are capable…in times of war we revert, as a species, to the past, and are permitted to be brutal and cruel. It is for this reason, and of course others, that a great many people enjoy war. But this is one of the facts about war that is not often talked about.

So a war begins. Into a peace-time life, comes an announcement, a threat. A bomb drops somewhere, potential traitors are whisked off quietly to prison. And for some time, days, months, a year perhaps, life has a peace-time quality, into which war-like events intrude. But when a war has been going on for a long time, life is all war, every event has the quality of war, nothing of peace remains.

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