Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Title

International Women's Writing: New Landscapes of Identity




However different their lives, Doris Lessing, Bessie Head, and Nadine Gordimer share the common heritage of having grown up in southern Africa. All three were profoundly affected by that experience. Their responses to the colonialist, racist, and sexist attitudes that permeated their lives have determined, to a major extent. the nature of their fiction. Their novels reflect the grotesque situations and bizarre human relationships created by prejudice, injustice, and the desire to dominate. These three authors focus on the mad nature of this social and political situation in southern Africa. In their works, dystopian and utopian visions of the future provide perspectives from which to view the nightmarish quality of the past and present. These writers seek to communicate the horror of what they have known and their longings for something else-other ways of being and acting than those that characterize not only most whites of southern Africa but also most people of all colors. Although other works by these women writers will be mentioned, this chapter focuses upon Martha Quest, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, and Shikasta by Doris Lessing, Maru and A Question of Power by Bessie Head, and Burger's Daughter, July's People, and A Sport of Nature by Nadine Gordimer.

Original Publication Citation

Bazin, N. T. (1995). Southern Africa and the themes of madness: Novels by Doris Lessing, Bessie Head, and Nadine Gordimer. In A. E. Brown & M. E. Goozé (Eds.), International women's writing: New landscapes of identity (pp. 137-149). Greenwood Press.