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"I was moonstruck. I was mooncrazed.",
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This review is from: Briefing for a Descent Into Hell (Flamingo Modern Classic) (Paperback)
A man is admitted to hospital. There is nothing with him to tell the authorities his name, his age or his address. Later, a wallet is found - no money, but his address is now available and relatives are contacted. But the nature of his illness seems ambiguous. He is extremely loquacious, and appears to believe that he is floating on a boat in the sea. He lies awake all day and all night, hallucinating this inner vision and he has to be moved to a small observation room so he doesn't disturb other patients. His rambling pronouncements continue unabated as he imagines himself in the sea, on a journey of some kind. The writing here is breathtakingly lyrical and beautiful, but nothing makes any sense to those listening. Dr Y, and Dr X, alternate with various treatments, but nothing seems to help and the majority of the book consists of his rambling stories of travel in an unearthly place. Hell, one supposes. Strange beings are all around him. Gorgeous as this story is, it is disjointed and strange. He meets Gods, he meets Soldier, Clerk, Gardener and Teacher and he meets blood drinking women. Monkeys plague him and strange yellow creatures show him a path.
Towards the end of the book he seems to recover some of his memory, or some facet of it, and he tells a tremendously affecting story of being airlifted into some mountains where he joins a group of young Yugoslav soldiers in WWII. Though by now, they know he never went to Yugoslavia during the war. He is a lecturer of historiography, it appears, and he had an unexceptional, though particularly hard war in France. Though it is all fantasy, his sojourn with the young soldiers is the best part of the book, albeit all too short.
While all of the writing has power and often beauty, I felt strangely detached. I did not connect with much of the journeying, it seemed esoteric and for effect only. I have read everything I've come across by Doris Lessing, but this leapt out of my cogniscence so often and so outlandishly that I wanted to give up and though I read on doggedly to the end, I couldn't find much of a reward for my persistence.