The Good Terrorist
The Good Terrorist is a 1985 political novel written by the British novelist Doris Lessing. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and won the Mondello Prize and the WH Smith Literary Award. Lessing was spurred to write the novel by the Irish Republican Army bombing of the Harrods department store in London in 1983.
About The Good Terrorist in brief
The Good Terrorist is a 1985 political novel written by the British novelist Doris Lessing. The book’s protagonist is the naïve drifter Alice, who squats with a group of radicals in London and is drawn into their terrorist activities. Lessing was spurred to write the novel by the Irish Republican Army bombing of the Harrods department store in London in 1983. Some reviewers labelled the novel a satire, while Lessing called it humorous. The title is an oxymoron which highlights Alice’s ambivalent nature. Some praised its insight and characterisation, others faulted its style and the characters’ lack of depth. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and won the Mondello Prize and the WH Smith Literary Award. It is written in the subjective third person from the point of view of Alice, an unemployed politics and economics graduate in her mid-thirties who drifts from commune to commune. The members of the squat belong to the Communist Centre Union, and attend demonstrations and pickets. Alice involves herself in some of these activities, but spends most of her time working on the house. She acknowledges that she is a terrorist now, though she cannot remember when the change happened. Despite her initial reservations about the bombing, Alice feels a need to justify their actions to others, but realises it would be fruitless because ‘rdinary people simply didn’t understand’. She considers herself a revolutionary, fighting against ‘fascist imperialism’, but is still dependent on her parents, whom she treats with contempt.
She became a member of the British Communist Party in the early 1950s, but grew disillusioned with Communism following the 1956 Hungarian uprising and read Sufis Shahfries’s The Suffis Archives: Argos Archives in the Archives. By 1964, Lessing had published six novels, which prompted her to write a five-volume fiction series, which she called ‘space fiction.’ She also joined the Southern Rhodesian Labour Party in 1949 and moved to London and began her writing career. She was an active campaigner against the use of nuclear weapons, and was active in the anti-racist movement in Southern Rhodesia in the 1940s and 1950s. She later joined the prominent Book Club in Salisbury, prompted by the conflicts arising from racial segregation in Rhodesia at the time. She also moved to Salisbury and began writing five- volume fiction series in the 1950s and 1960s, in which she wrote about an Islamic belief system, an Islamic system, and the Canopus Archives: Canos Argos archives in the archives. In the early 1980s, Alice joins a squat of like-minded ‘comrades’ in a derelict house in London. She takes it upon herself to clean up and renovate the house, and persuades the authorities to restore the electricity and water supplies. Alice becomes the house’s ‘mother’ and deals with the local police, who are trying to evict them.