The Good Terrorist


The Good Terrorist has been labelled a "political novel"[23] by the publishers and some reviewers, including Alison Lurie in The New York Review of Books.[24] Lurie stated that as political fiction, it is "one of the best novels ... about the terrorist mentality"[24] since Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent (1907),[24] although this was questioned by William H. Pritchard in The Hudson Review, who wrote that compared to Conrad, The Good Terrorist is "shapeless".[25] Several commentators have called it more a novel about politics than political fiction.[26] In From the Margins of Empire: Christina Stead, Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, Louise Yelin called the work a novel about politics, rather than a political novel per se.[27]

The Good Terrorist has also been called a satire. In her book Doris Lessing: The Poetics of Change, Gayle Greene called it a "satire of a group of revolutionaries",[19] and Susan Watkins, writing in Doris Lessing: Border Crossings, described it as a "dry and satirical examination of a woman's involvement with a left-wing splinter group".[20] A biography of Lessing for the Swedish Academy on the occasion of her being awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature called it "a satirical picture of the need of the contemporary left for total control and the female protagonist's misdirected martyrdom and subjugation".[13] Yelin said the novel "oscillat[ed] between satire and nostalgia".[21] Academic Robert E. Kuehn felt that it is not satire at all and that while the book could have been a "satire of the blackest and most hilarious kind",[3] in his opinion Lessing "has no sense of humor, and instead of lashing [the characters] with the satirist's whip, she treats them with unremitting and belittling irony".[3]

Virginia Scott called the novel a fantasy. Drawing on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in The International Fiction Review, she wrote that "[Lessing's] Alice with her group of political revolutionaries can be seen as a serious fantasy which has striking parallels to ... Carroll's Alice".[28] Both Alices enter a house and are confronted by seemingly impossible challenges: Carroll's Alice has to navigate passages too small to fit through, while Lessing's Alice finds herself in a barely inhabitable house that is earmarked for demolition.[28] Both Alices are able to change their appearances: in Wonderland, Alice adjusts her size to suit her needs; in The Good Terrorist, Alice changes her demeanour to get what she wants from others.[28] Scott noted that at one point in The Good Terrorist, Faye refers to Alice as "Alice the Wonder, the wondrous Alice",[29] alluding to Carroll's Alice.[28]

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