I have been lingering far longer than normal for a book, over Doris Lessing's autobiography, Under My Skin. For a change I haven't rushed at it, but savoured the descriptions of a childhood in Rhodesia and furrowed my forehead untangling the communism of her young adulthood.
Last night Alan Yentob was allowed into her kitchen to make her tea, lots of tea, and we were reminded of a woman who has made the word indomitable her own descriptor.
Age presumably plays a part, or perhaps not after all, but I cannot remember ever hearing or reading someone so absolutely self aware, so understanding of her own nature, and with such a sharp and clear view of humanity. This does not make for a soft experience, for her (leaving her first two children to pursue the life she had to must have been beyond painful) or for us (people are interesting but hardly important). She is revealed as a woman full of drives; her love of the physical, the sexual, the political, the humanitarian, all without caveats, all without delusion.
The programme shows her in 1958, very beautiful and specific as ever, sponsor of the Aldermaston marches, putting an unequivocal case against nuclear weapons, coolly and unemotionally.
To be so clear in ones own mind on any issue, about oneself... how few of us have that rarest of abilities. And if we think we do know our own mind, we mostly struggle to express what we know.
Watch The Hostess and The Alien here.