The literary world was saddened a few days ago by the passing of one of our Nobel Prize laureates, Doris Lessing. I had long planned to read her but with some sixty books and numerous short stories it was hard to find a starting point. I was glad to see that an excellent short story anthology focusing on English language women writers that I have been slowly working my way through The Story: Love, Loss, and the Lives of Women -One Hundred Short Stories edited by Victoria Hislop includes two short stories by Doris Lessing.
"A Man and Two Women" is, as one would of course expect, a master work of exquisite prose and deep insight produced by an author of the highest culture. I would not hesitate to call it a work of high art. It centers on two couples, both educated and successful in on the surface harmonious seeming relationships. One of the men has gone from a struggling poverty stricken artist to a highly sought after high priced artist. The two couples are long term friends. The heart of this story is in the changing dynamics of the relationships between the four people. The central "dilemma" in the story arises when the woman, the one married to a business man, acknowledges that her husband does have transitory affairs with other women on his often month long business trips.
About this author
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.