Briefing for a Descent into Hell

Briefing for a Descent into Hell By Doris Lessing, Briefing for a Descent into Hell A fascinating look inside the mind of a man who is supposedly mad Professor Charles Watkins of Cambridge University is a patient at a mental hospital where the doctors try with increasing drugs to bri
  • Title: Briefing for a Descent into Hell
  • Author: Doris Lessing
  • ISBN: 9780394746623
  • Page: 147
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Briefing for a Descent into Hell By Doris Lessing, A fascinating look inside the mind of a man who is supposedly mad Professor Charles Watkins of Cambridge University is a patient at a mental hospital where the doctors try with increasing drugs to bring his mind under control But Watkins has embarked on a tremendous psychological adventure where, after spinning endlessly on a raft in the Atlantic, he lands on a tropicaA fascinating look inside the mind of a man who is supposedly mad Professor Charles Watkins of Cambridge University is a patient at a mental hospital where the doctors try with increasing drugs to bring his mind under control But Watkins has embarked on a tremendous psychological adventure where, after spinning endlessly on a raft in the Atlantic, he lands on a tropical island inhabited by strange creatures with strange customs Later, he is carried off on a cosmic journey into space
    Briefing for a Descent into Hell By Doris Lessing,
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    About "Doris Lessing"

    1. Doris Lessing

      Both of her parents were British her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia her mother had been a nurse In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe Like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school such as Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer , Lessing made herself into a self educated intellectual In 1937 she moved to Salisbury, where she worked as a telephone operator for a year At nineteen, she married Frank Wisdom, and had two children A few years later, feeling trapped in a persona that she feared would destroy her, she left her family, remaining in Salisbury Soon she was drawn to the like minded members of the Left Book Club, a group of Communists who read everything, and who did not think it remarkable to read Gottfried Lessing was a central member of the group shortly after she joined, they married and had a son.During the postwar years, Lessing became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist movement, which she left altogether in 1954 By 1949, Lessing had moved to London with her young son That year, she also published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, and began her career as a professional writer.In June 1995 she received an Honorary Degree from Harvard University Also in 1995, she visited South Africa to see her daughter and grandchildren, and to promote her autobiography It was her first visit since being forcibly removed in 1956 for her political views Ironically, she is welcomed now as a writer acclaimed for the very topics for which she was banished 40 years ago.In 2001 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Literature, one of Spain s most important distinctions, for her brilliant literary works in defense of freedom and Third World causes She also received the David Cohen British Literature Prize She was on the shortlist for the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005 In 2007 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature Extracted from the pamphlet A Reader s Guide to The Golden Notebook Under My Skin, HarperPerennial, 1995 Full text available on dorislessing.

    834 thoughts on “Briefing for a Descent into Hell”

    1. I don t exaggerate when I am saying that I felt like quitting reading this book several times before I became quite enraptured by it Alien ship appearing from the sky, animals like monkeys and ratdogs being described fighting and killing each other all these seemed nonsense I was expecting something different from Lessing But hey, it s Lessing we re talking about here, I should have learnt to expect the unexpected.The story seems to be banal an individual gets in a mental hospital with total amn [...]

    2. Some crazed english teacher assigned this to our class in 10th grade I loved the book and have re read it many times I think this may have been one of the first adult books that turned me on to reading

    3. When Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize nearly a decade ago she found out as she stepped out of a taxi and arrived at her home swarmed with journalists She didn t seem to know that the announcement was to be made on that day, or didn t seem to care, having, like many pundits and literati, long ago decided that she was out of contention She was 88 after all She responded which a remarkable quip, a curse, a statement of how it took them too long The Nobel Committee, in one of their famously ambiguo [...]

    4. Rather variable ride First, we re presented with a man checked into a psych ward with no memory and a pretty delusional idea of where he is Immediately we re drawn into his already debunked subjective reality, which removes the pre debunking does, that is much of that excitement of trying to figure out what exactly is going on Soon, his interior journey takes on enough concrete detail and sense of place to teansport me despite this, at least until it starts to develop that excessively domineerin [...]

    5. I have a problem with the word experimental because most experiments fail it s in their nature When I use word experiment here I mean a test to prove a hypothesis In the case of a novel the word experimental usually means If I try this and this and this do I still have a novel And the answer to that question is usually Yes, but not a very good one Certainly what we re willing to consider a novel nowadays is different from when the word was first coined and if you want to take the word at face va [...]

    6. My second Lessing book and what a one to pick Who do you believe, what is real and what is a hallucination In the end we are still left guessing is the amnesiac cured or was he a amnesiac This book was shortlisted got the 1971 Booker Prize The plot revolves around a man found wandering on Embankment in London with no memory and apparently hallucinating He is taken to a hospital for treatment by two doctors and we embark via the patients imagination a voyage at sea, space craft, abandoned cities [...]

    7. This is one of the most unusual books I ve read, it covers an amazing range of ideas in under 300 pages I ve never read anything by Doris Lessing before not sure how since I m constantly reading, and try to focus on female authors I downloaded a bunch of her books and picked this one simply because I loved the title It turns out that it falls into one of my favorite genres, the alternate reality because of coma near death madness, etc My favorite example of this genre is the movie Jacob s Ladder [...]

    8. Christ, this is not an easy book.It contains one of the genres that I hate the stream of consiciousness A man is found wandering emabankment penniless and is admitted to hospitale first third of the book are the ramblings in his head which have a very science fiction feel to it, as he discovers alien races, is transported on the back of giant birds and porpoises and encounters apes fighting rat dogs All a methaphor for something, but what I dont know.Then we get into the investigation of who he [...]

    9. Hell as in Hades as in the land of the living dead, a place of stasis Change in the form or a re imagined life, or liberation, is not an option for Professor Charles Watkins because he is in the care at the mercy of doctors whose perceptions are easily, readily handicapped by the vast array of labels they so easily apply to Professor Charles Watkins Watkins arrives at an English hospital as a lost soul, a man who has lost his memory and, therefore, his identity As his doctors attempt to discover [...]

    10. Having heard so much about how good this is and having my expectations raised so high, there was every chance that this could ve been a let down But it was the absolute polar opposite Lessing has written a tale that it utterly gripping from start to finish through all the strange unusual flashbacks and visions and all the real heartfelt moments as Watkins is torn between his old and new realities As his doctors try and cure him and his family and friends are brought in to help, the questions Wat [...]

    11. This is the third novel I have read by Lessing I also read The Grass is Singing and The Summer before the Dark, and found both novels to be far accessible and enjoyable reads Having said that, though, I rated this novel higher While it is clearly a challenging read, Lessing s work is incredibly brilliant In fact, I would call this novel genius, as it tracks the mental breakdown of Professor Charles Watkins The beginning of the novel, when Watkins is at the height of his madness, and crippled b [...]

    12. This was a bit of a struggle at first as my naturally ordered mind desires chapters and parts of this are stream of consciousness and hard work The tale of a man found wandering in London having lost is memory The first part of the book seems to be about about what is going on in his mind and is about the wanderings of a man in a fantastical world The roles of the two doctors and the nursing staff are interesting and they follow the psychological theories of the time.We learn the man is an acade [...]

    13. Lessing has some cool ideas in this book, but the execution is sloppy and it has not aged terrible well There are some really good parts in the second half, the Yugoslavia section especially, but the first 200 pages or so were a clunky slog.

    14. This book really surprised me For the first half, despite the fact that I was enjoying the parallel stories man lost at sea in his mind, and the same man in a mental institution with doctors trying to figure out his deal , I had a hard time maintaining interest in the long passages of stream of consciousness I could see how they were appropriate to show the Professor s confusion and loneliness in his mental journey, but that didn t keep me awake when I was reading the book before bed As the stor [...]

    15. I certainly see this as cleverly written book But unfortunately, sometimes there were long narrations I really couldn t place where its leading to, so I got bored The beginning was interesting with giving some insight to the patient s madness and revealing the disconnection between reality for sane and insane But when he started on long narratives of his imaginary island life, most of the time I failed to relate incidents to any sensible things, probably, I missed a lot due to wavering in less i [...]

    16. She has some lovely phrasings and poetic leanings, which makes for beautiful and lyrical reading However, the first half of the book is quite difficult to understand, and I was not satisfied with the conclusion It certainly had promise, and perhaps I ll like it better on a re read.

    17. I guess in the time of the book, the word neurodiversity hadn t been coined yet But this book, with its experimental form and somewhat taboo topic, reads like a compassionate but tragic apology for neurodiversity It s tragic, for as we follow the hero s journey we see the Normal as it is a kind of censor that compels us to discard the spontaneous emergence of values rooted from exactly the Normalcy itself, and the hero is at odds with this compulsion It shows the inherent oddity of the Normal th [...]

    18. rating B This is my second novel by Miss Lessing, and I must say that I am always impressed by her skill and versatility as a writer This novel takes place mainly in a hospital ward where Professor Charles Watkins has suffered from loss of memory From his delusions or what he believes to be a reality or at the least an alternative reality to letters from his doctors to family and friends, this novel takes the reader to the imaginative coasts of mysterious metaphysical islands to Space to the min [...]

    19. Doris Lessing may have won every literary award in Europe, including the Nobel Prize for Literature, but this novel is a stinker I imagine it is supposed to combine some sort of science fiction with a psychological analysis of mental illness, but it just came across as uninspired drivel to me.I read this book over the course of about two years because I just simply could not force my way through it This might have affected how I feel about the book, but truthfully, had the story any merit, it wo [...]

    20. The low rating I m giving the book has nothing to do with the eminent author, Doris Lessing, the subject matter of her book, or her writing It s a truly noble attempt to walk in the shoes of a mentally ill person incredibly courageous remarkable, since Lessing wrote this in 1971 Dealing with the systemic familial challenges involved in mental illness such a controversial treatment as E.C.T Electro Convulsive Therapy , even today, is a monumental task I know this firsthand from experience with se [...]

    21. This book takes you on an unsuspected ride It starts with what appears to be a two faceted incursion into the mind and life of a mentally ill patient once recorded from the outside and once from inside his mind.But it ia something much, much deeper It is a journey into the nature of reality, a story of how mankind descended from Unity and it is desperately trying to gain it back Many will see it as just a metaphor I dare say it is than that and I have a huge respect for Doris Lessing in underst [...]

    22. Well, I made it almost exactly half way through While I love the title and appreciated the experimental and very free form approach, I was neither entertained nor illuminated by this I m glad it exists, perhaps other will enjoy its mysteries and fantasy sci fiesque new aginess, but it left me cold I was impressed it was concerned with global warming as early as 1971 but, when the goddess Venus called science just another human religion, well, that was that for me.

    23. I suppose I could write all sorts of pseudo intellectual nonsense about this book if I really had to If you prefer my honest opinion, it s rather like Iain Banks s Walking on Glass but not as entertaining.

    24. I finished this book profoundly moved and shaken haunted by the sense of how we know there is a different reality and way of seeing to that of the every day how we are, in that everyday, asleep thought of Gurdjieff, and his thoughts here.

    25. Sleep is harder to reach and thinner, and sleeping is no longer the Drop into the black pit all oblivion until the alarm clock, no, sleep is thin and fitful and full of memories and reminders and the dark is never dark enough.

    26. around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and aroundAlright Briefed Pretty good, although a pretty severe left turn from the excellent beginning.

    27. I was tempted to abandon it at first but I knew it would pay off eventually and it did but I don t know how or why I just don t know.

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