The Clefts, by Doris Lessing

Lessing’s inspired tale imagines a life without men

by James Kidd

…Set in a time of myths and legends, the senator relates the history of The Clefts, an ancient community of women who live in isolated splendour in a coastal valley.

This setting is not only beautifully rendered by Lessing’s crystalline prose, but also provides a metaphor of female identity that banishes the “phallus” from pathetic fallacy. Once a month, for instance, red flowers flow through the rock.

The Clefts have no knowledge of men – and nor do they need them. Able to procreate by themselves, urged on by lunar cycles, they give birth to girl progeny alone.

One day, however, one of their number gives birth to a male child and the world of Edenic order threatens to falls into chaos.

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