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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 30, 2022

Crossing the Walls: Reading Doris Lessing’s The Memoirs of a Survivor as a Hopeful Dystopia

  • Vanja Vukićević Garić EMAIL logo and Predrag Živković EMAIL logo


Lessing’s short novel The Memoirs of a Survivor encapsulates all the dominant narrative, political, and philosophical preoccupations of its prolific author. Straddling the genres of socio-realistic dystopia and post-apocalyptic fantasy, it self-consciously reflects on many questions relevant to contemporary readers. Drawing on the main premises of postmodern poetics, particularly on its ontological concerns, and on more recent theories about new ‘critical dystopias’ in literature, this article points to the multi-layered utopian aspects present at different levels of the text. Moreover, applying philosophical and sociological concepts of Jean Baudrillard to the interpretation of Lessing’s symbolic and narrative strategies, such as his notion of the alienation of death in capitalist society, the article shows how this novel can be read not only as a critique of materialist culture and a study of deprivation and isolation with serious psychological and civilizational consequences, but also as a hopeful play with ontological borders implied in the imaginative rethinking of our private and shared realities.

Corresponding author: Dr. Vanja Vukićević Garić, Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Montenegro, Danila Bojovića bb, 81400 Nikšić, Montenegro, E-mail: ; and Dr. Predrag Živković, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Danila Bojovića bb, 81400 Nikšić, Montenegro, E-mail:


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Published Online: 2022-11-30
Published in Print: 2022-12-16

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