Sandy's Reviews > Briefing for a Descent Into Hell

Briefing for a Descent Into Hell by Doris Lessing
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's review
Mar 18, 2011

really liked it
Read from March 18 to 27, 2011

Hell as in Hades as in the land of the living dead, a place of stasis. Change in the form or a re-imagined life, or liberation, is not an option for Professor Charles Watkins because he is in the care--at the mercy--of doctors whose perceptions are easily, readily handicapped by the vast array of labels they so easily apply to Professor Charles Watkins.

Watkins arrives at an English hospital as a lost soul, a man who has lost his memory and, therefore, his identity. As his doctors attempt to discover him that they might return him to his world, they also seek to recreate him with the aid of medications, therapies, and the recollections of friends and lovers and rivals.

Charles imagines himself one way; the doctors, another. What should be a collaboration toward healing becomes a competition as the clock ticks toward Watkins's inevitable release from the institution.

Can we be ourselves? Can we remake our lives? Can liberating change ever come? And what if we have no name with which to label this new creation?
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Reading Progress

10.0% "My Kindle version is cut off on the right and bottom margins. Weird. I feel like I am reading a very badly done scan. Still, it's compelling."
48.0% "The gods by their various names are coming together to repair this wretched place called Earth from those absurd tenants called humans. As this book spirals into allegory, I find I am missing the comatose nut and the observations of the quacks. the lyrical prose keeps me going."
64.0% "It's allegory, all right. But Lessing has my buy in. She has me identifying with the guy strapped to the bed and being analyzed. It is an uncomfortable pleasure, to be sure."
77.0% "The momentum is amazing!"
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