Briefing for a Descent into Hell by Doris Lessing

Review by Mark Hayek.

Briefing for a Descent into Hell by Doris Lessing

The main plot is centered around a man who is suffering from a mental breakdown. He imagines himself lost at sea and is described by the hospital staff as delirious. But Lessing takes us into the mind of this university professor. It is a long spiritual journey of self-discovery, but also an intense psychosocial critic on the understanding of the self with relation to society, and ultimately the universe. The book is a heavy read, and Lessing uses a very counter-intuitive method to remove the presuppositions that are most closely held by the average person, ideas of family, identity, and personal and social roles. Lessing touches upon the various treatments used on severe mental cases, and their repercussions. But, I think, the most valuable asset that Lessing introduces in her novel is the idea of relativity of perception when identifying reality. She places the most important scale of this relativity on the personal adequacy of an experience, rather than diluting it down into everyday experience, and presents it raw and powerful and beautiful. Personally, this book gave me great insight into many aspects of social interaction, and the subsequent effect of this interaction on the self.

An inspiring and eye-opening experience, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a bit more insight into the personal deconstruction of the world and one’s role in it.

One comment

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