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London Observed: Stories and Sketches (1987)

por Doris Lessing

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1632169,530 (3.6)10
Across eighteen short stories, Lessing dissects London and its inhabitants with the power for truth and compassion to be expected of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007. 'During that first year in England, I had a vision of London I cannot recall now ... it was a nightmare city that I lived in for a year. Then, one evening, walking across the park, the light welded buildings, trees and scarlet buses into something familiar and beautiful, and I knew myself to be at home.' Lessing's vision of London - a place of nightmares and wonder - underpins this brilliantly multifaceted collection of stories about the city, seen from a cafe table, a hospital bed, the back seat of a taxi, a hospital casualty department; seen, as always, unflinchingly, and compellingly depicted.… (mais)
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As the title suggests these are a collection of short stories which are sometimes little more than sketches or observations and so of the 18 pieces in a book of 200 pages, I would describe three perhaps four as genuine short stories. This is by no means to denigrate the rest of the collection because the shorter pieces are just as well written and just as delightful in their way as the stories.

Doris Lessing’s observations are of the people that live and work in London, she does not have any interest in walking the reader around the tourist sites of the capital. They were written when Lessing was in her late 60’s and early 70’s and are the thoughts and reflections of an elderly lady at peace with herself enjoying the freedom of looking around with some amusement in restaurants, in cafes or parks, perhaps hearing snatches of conversation from which she can make up her stories and sketches. Her wise thoughts and lively imagination never intrude too much on her observations: she had always been a writer that could capture a moment; particularly of relationships between people and sometimes animals, that ring so true to this reader that he could imagine the situation as though it occurred in his own life. Apart from her science fiction much of Lessing’s fiction has that unmistakable feeling of being autobiographical and so she is well placed to develop these sketches from her own memories having lived much of her adult life in London.

Apart from the first story which tells of a young desperate girl delivering her own baby in an old watchman’s hut, so that she can hide her predicament from her friends and family, most of the other pieces have a more gentle feel to them. It is as though the author is able to look on the world through more kindly eyes. There is some humour, but no jokes and a lightness of touch that mitigates any blame we may feel towards the more selfish actions of some of the characters in the stories. To get a feel for the book you might imagine that you had perhaps come across one of these pieces in your favourite magazine, or newspaper and took the time necessary to indulge yourself in a short fiction read, and at the end of which you would be glad you had done so. London Observed is just such a collection of stories and so 3.5 stars. ( )
  baswood | Aug 27, 2017 |
This reading was a great pleasure. Doris Lessing is a great observer of people. In each short story she meets the open and hidden traits of the protagonists and plots them sometimes very subtle, then a little exaggerated again with a virtuosity. In each of the short stories you feel to know this type of person, like ones neighbours. Any situation that she describes is true to life and you have experienced it yourself or know someone who was in such a situation.
Lessing's talent to portray faithfully the events with a striking language are great. She can describe a little something so accurate that one it sees before him directly, but never feels bored. ( )
  Ameise1 | Aug 1, 2016 |
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Across eighteen short stories, Lessing dissects London and its inhabitants with the power for truth and compassion to be expected of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007. 'During that first year in England, I had a vision of London I cannot recall now ... it was a nightmare city that I lived in for a year. Then, one evening, walking across the park, the light welded buildings, trees and scarlet buses into something familiar and beautiful, and I knew myself to be at home.' Lessing's vision of London - a place of nightmares and wonder - underpins this brilliantly multifaceted collection of stories about the city, seen from a cafe table, a hospital bed, the back seat of a taxi, a hospital casualty department; seen, as always, unflinchingly, and compellingly depicted.

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