April 20, 2007 at 8:40 pm #214
One of greatest living writers, the acclaimed author of Mara and Dann returns us to a future where hope has frozen and died.
Dann is grown up now, hunting for knowledge and despondent over the inadequacies of his civilization. With his trusted companions “Mara’s daughter, his hope for the future; the abandoned child-solder Griot, who discovers the meaning of love and the ability to sing stories; and the snow dog, a faithful friend who brings him back from the depths of despair”, Dann embarks on a strange and captivating adventure in a suddenly colder, more watery climate in the north.
Are we complacent by nature? Or is our society complacent? And what role do we play within a complacent society? Doris Lessing questions needs, wants, and ambitions in her new book, the Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot and The Snow Dog.
Although a sequel to Mara and Dann: An Adventure, Lessing’s latest book can be read on its own. An unfamiliar reader will find the first part tough slogging. Lessing paints a self-centered man first encountering hopeless people in dire deathly circumstances, then finding a complacent society. The complacent society is isolated in an island. “No man is an island,” said John Donne. These people believe they are an island unto themselves. Their complacent isolation speaks to their eventual demise.
What happens when all our basic wants and needs are met with no sense of adventure left, just a total preoccupation with day to day business? What happens to that society? The people, the culture becomes complacent with no thoughts of the future, or of anyone else outside of their society. Coming from a “world” of desperation, starvation, and violence, Dann single-handedly contrasts the inadequacies of this world. Time passes quickly for Dann. Before we know it, three years have passed. Why would anyone stay in such a monotonous place, as it was a bit boring to read? But that is one of Lessing’s questions she plants in your mind. And hopefully you are awake and don’t enter that complacency by putting the book down, and failing to understand Lessing’s motivations.
When Dann finally leaves this idyllic world of tranquillity called the Bottom Sea, he instills the seed of adventure, and desire for quest. He does give back in the only way he can; but in a way that we do not recognize nor value. In his leave-taking, Lessing vividly portrays Dann’s inadequacies to understanding relationships and valuing emotional depth. I hated him for that. But then in a society of complacency and self-centeredness, citizens treat each other in the same manner. Everyone goes his or her own way, with no real need for anyone, just an exchange of money.
There’s always a lesson from people we hate. Moreover, Lessing makes us hate Dann for his callousness and disregard of other people in his life. He really does not understand what others have given to him. We are Dann operating with our superficial emotional immaturity in our own superficial city environments. Perhaps, we need to start giving in deeper ways, establishing emotional depths with our city neighbours, instilling seeds of inter-dependencies, and quests of independence from our captive consumerism.
Being a sequel, this book may stand-alone if the reader is patient. And you will find your reward and perhaps a desire to read Mara and Dann: An Adventure for the history. I would encourage you to read the first book because you will never look at water in the way you look at it now. But don’t feel obligated to read the series in order. By reading this sequel first, you see Dann through the same eyes that other people see him, not knowing his past. Griot, a loyal friend, who idolizes Dann, asks the important questions about what makes a hero, and about the role that heroes play in our society. A hero, a visionary, is impossible without the detail person. A hero gets bogged down by repetitive negativity in the daily grind. While the detail person motivates and inspires the hero with the small daily successes that snowball and multiply. A hero is a combination of the visionary person and the detail person. Unfortunately, the masses only recognize and reward the visionary person.
The lengthy title puzzles me. For those unfamiliar with the first story, the title of the second book speaks of things not true. For those of us who eagerly awaited a sequel, the title attracts and promises direction. The title speaks of blood relationships, human friendships, and loyal animal bonds, a circle that can empower a human, and bring hope for the future. When we carry hope and positive contributions, then civilization moves forward. When we carry death and destruction, civilization moves backwards. History repeats itself. Lessing leaves us to ponder our actions for our future, contrasting past and present societies. Which path will we chose?
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