Commodifying the past: Doris Lessing's the golden notebook as nostalgic narrative

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This article focuses on the realist fragment embedded within Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook concerning Anna Wulf's life in Rhodesia as a member of the Communist Party and, more specifically, the events that take place at the Mashopi Hotel. In this fragment Lessing critically interrogates the nostalgic glance backwards, thereby offering a dialectical understanding of the past as an image of the present. Responding to the post-war impulse to "look back", a gesture embodied by Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger , Lessing's realist fragment reveals the extent to which the past is always already commodified by the present. The Mashopi Hotel embodies an idea of Englishness that is at once comforting but ultimately destructive. Lessing's analysis of the nostalgia for a lost Englishness is, I argue, a response to post-war anxieties concerning English identity, anxieties attributable to the collapse of the British Empire and the influx of new immigrants from Commonwealth countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-131
JournalThe Journal of Commonwealth Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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