From The Telegraph:
She thinks much of her own character was informed by the war, through her parents. Without it, she might not have been writer, not had what Graham Greene said all writers must have, a chip of ice in her heart. ‘Well, I’ve often thought about it. I was born out of the First World War. My father’s rage at the trenches took me over when I was young and never left. It is as if that old war is in my own memory; my own consciousness. It gave me a terrible sense of foreboding, a belief that things could never be ordinary and decent, but always doom-ridden. The Great War squatted over my childhood. The trenches were as present to me as anything I actually saw around me. And my parents never passed up an opportunity to make me feel miserable about the past. I find that war sitting on me the older I get, the weight of it. How was it possible that we allowed this monstrous war? Why do we allow wars still? Now we are bogged down in Iraq in an impossible situation. I’ll be pleased when I’m dead. That will let me off worrying about all these wars.’
It is an extraordinarily comment, delivered in a matter-of-fact voice. And it reminds me of something she writes in Alfred & Emily: ‘You can be with old people and never suspect that whole continents of experience are there, just behind those ordinary faces.’ In Lessing’s case, you could never guess from her small but kind eyes that she hated her mother.