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Un matrimonio per bene de Doris Lessing
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Un matrimonio per bene (original: 1964; edição: 2003)

de Doris Lessing

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An unconventional woman trapped in a conventional marriage, Martha Quest struggles to maintain her dignity and her sanity through the misunderstandings, frustrations, infidelities, and degrading violence of a failing marriage. Finally, she must make the heartbreaking choice of whether to sacrifice her child as she turns her back on marriage and security. A Proper Marriage is the second novel in Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence series of novels, each a masterpiece on its own right, and, taken together, an incisive and all-encompassing vision of our world in the twentieth century.… (mais)
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Título:Un matrimonio per bene
Autores:Doris Lessing
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A Proper Marriage de Doris Lessing (1964)

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Nelle immense lande delle Zone, strani reami che circondano la Terra, si sta per celebrare un'unione le cui conseguenze potrebbero cambiare per sempre il destino del pianeta. La Zona Tre, un paradiso pacifico e matriarcale, è guidata da una mite regina, mentre la confinante Zona Quattro è una terra abbandonata alla guerra e al caos, schiacciata dal dominio del brutale re guerriero Ben-Ata. Il matrimonio tra i due, che rappresentano gli estremi princìpi di femminilità e mascolinità, minaccia di destabilizzare l'intero impero galattico e i reami delle Zone.
  kikka62 | Jan 25, 2020 |
This is page after page after page of close, conscientious fiction-writing, of the old-fashioned sort that tries unironically to put you in the mind of someone else. So successful is Lessing that after reading two books in this sequence, I genuinely feel like I've experienced growing up as a woman in 1930s Rhodesia. I can recommend the experience!

Having watched Martha Quest grow from a girl into a young woman during book one, here we see her grapple with the emotions of marriage, pregnancy and motherhood. Martha is not happily married but her unhappiness comes just as much from her own responses and expectations as from her dopey spouse; she second-guesses herself constantly, and spends hours analysing the extent to which she lives up, or down, to society's idea of a woman.

After hours of determined concentration she would emerge with the phrase, ‘Women hate men who take them for granted.’ It would have done for a story in a magazine. But that impersonal ‘women’ was a comfort – briefly, for no sooner had she reached it than she saw the image that the words conjured up: something sought, wooed, capricious, bestowing favours. No, there was something extremely distasteful about that capricious female; no sooner had Martha caught a glimpse of her than she must repudiate her entirely: she was certainly from the past! The suggestion of coyness was unbearable.

From the moment we realise Martha is going to have a baby – which is to say within the first twenty pages or so – we are in a frenzy of anticipation at the prospect of seeing this meticulous, forensic prose style brought to bear on the experience of childbirth. When it comes, it's a true tour-de-force – Lessing is equal to the challenge as no other writer I've encountered has been, at least to my (disinterested male) mind.

Martha no longer had the energy to achieve a mild amusement. The small lit place in her brain was dimming most alarmingly with the pains. Every time, the light nearly went out; always, it flickered precariously and shone up again. Martha noted that something new was happening to time. The watch that lay six inches from her nose on her crooked arm said the pains were punctual at two minutes. But from the moment that the warning hot wave of pain swept up her back, she entered a place where there was no time at all. An agony so unbelievable gripped her that her astounded and protesting mind cried out it was impossible such pain should be. It was a pain so violent that it was no longer pain, but a condition of being. Every particle of flesh shrieked out, while the wave spurted like an electric current from somewhere in her backbone and went through her in shock after shock. The wave receded, however, just as she had decided she would disintegrate under it, and then she felt the fist that gripped her slowly loosen. Through the sweat in her eyes she saw that ten seconds had passed…

This goes on and on for several pages of sustained unsentimentality. Indeed Lessing's entire depiction of motherhood is an unsentimental one – Martha is determined to be independent, and though she loves her daughter, the child, like the husband, is in the final analysis an impediment to her freedom. One by one the misty-eyed clichés are dismantled, with an almost perverse need to uncover the negative realities.

That phrase, ‘having a baby’, which was every girl's way of thinking of a first child, was nothing but a mask to conceal the truth. One saw a flattering image of a madonna-like woman with a helpless infant in her arms; nothing could be more attractive. What one did not see, what everyone conspired to prevent one seeing, was the middle-aged woman who has done nothing but produce two or three commonplace and tedious citizens in a world that was already too full of them.

(In many of Lessing's sentences there is a single word choice that lifts the whole thought on to a higher level; here, I think, it's ‘citizens’.) I suspect there are probably few women, however fulfilled and delighted with their own choices, who won't see at least some aspects of truth in Martha's postpartum-depressive ruminations. Even now this is not a subject well covered in fiction, and in part this seems to have been Lessing's motivation for writing – one throwaway remark gives you a clue to the genesis of the whole book:

But what is most difficult is this: If you read novels and diaries, women didn't seem to have these problems. Is it really conceivable that we should have turned into something quite different in the space of about fifty years? Or do you suppose they didn't tell the truth, the novelists? In the books, the young and idealistic girl gets married, has a baby – she at once turns into something quite different; and she is perfectly happy to spend her whole life bringing up children with a tedious husband.

I was riveted by my exposure to the mores and prejudices of this peculiar time and place; and even in its most boring moments, that livewire feeling of access to another person's mind, another person's thought processes, kept me hooked. Love Martha or hate her, but it's heady stuff. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Mar 1, 2017 |
This is not the story of a resolute woman leaving a loveless marriage, but of one woman’s struggle to make some sense of her life whilst feeling trapped in a society that she finds oppressive. I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored she pleads……..

The story follows closely on the heels of [Martha Quest]; Lessings first novel in the Children of Violence series. It is set in a small town in Southern Rhodesia just before the start of World War II. Martha is settling down to married life with Douglas a popular young man who has a good job in the local Colonial Government Offices. The couple are part of a young crowd whose social life centres around the Rugby Club, friendly and inclusive they spend their time drinking dancing and drinking some more, there seems to be little else to do. Martha is not over concerned about starting a family; she sort of believes that she won’t get pregnant, but she does very quickly and while she had vague feeling of being trapped in her marriage these are reinforced by her pregnancy. Circumstances dictate she must have her baby in the local hospital which is run on old fashioned ideas and Martha is unable to rebel. Her anxieties about her life are exaggerated by her ambivalent feelings to her baby daughter. The young men of the Rugby Club are excited about the start of the War, they can’t wait to be soldiers and after a miserable few months of waiting they are sent away to the North of the country for training. Douglas has lied about his ulcer to be part of the big game and after a year is sent back home, where he finds that Martha has become increasingly dissatisfied with her role of wife and mother. Her political conscience has been stirred as she desperately searches for something else and the final third of the book centres around her efforts to leave Douglas and her daughter.

When Martha attends her first political meeting of a leftist group in the colony she is surprised to see a black man in attendance:

“This was the first time in her whole life, and she was now 21 - the first time in a life spent in a colony where nine tenths of the population were dark-skinned - that she had sat in a room with a dark-skinned person as an equal”

The unwritten irony is that Martha and the dark-skinned man would only be equal in that room, because at that time a colour bar was in operation under apartheid laws. Martha herself as a wife of an up and coming administrator lives in a large house with five black servants. She finds it difficult to play her expected role as Lord and Master and is frequently admonished by her mother and others who are clear in their ideas that the blacks must be kept in their place.

The story in many respects stays closely to Lessing’s own life and experiences as a young married mother in Southern Rhodesia, with one important exception; Martha although considered an intellectual by her peers does not write and has no aspirations to be an author. This absence gives her less of a focus than Lessing’s own life and so I conclude that Martha’s issues while being similar to Lessing’s own are more of a mixture of some of the other people that Lessing saw around her. It is clear that Lessing understands the frustrations of a women living in a town and discovering that the society, the town, her marriage are too small for her, but this is a gradual and painful discovery and once it is made, there is the difficulty of breaking away. It is difficult today for a woman to walk away from a “good” husband and her daughter, but in a closed society in a small colony the pressures to conform are increased exponentially.

Much of the story is written from Martha’s point of view and we follow closely her confinement and her experiences in the labour ward of the hospital and we see her marriage largely through her eyes, however Lessing inserts a section that outlines the story of Douglas’s final days in uniform and we have a chance to appreciate his views and character. Martha comes to sees him as a boy who has never really grown up, like so many of the other men in the colony and his story does nothing to deprecate this.

Closely and finally observed characters and an atmosphere of a society that is struggling to keep it’s head above water are set against the inner turmoil of Martha’s frustrations with her young life. It is a balance that gives a convincing portrait of life in Southern Rhodesia at the start of the second world war and the struggles of a spirited young woman to break free. Written from the heart by a fine young author this novel can’t fail to impress and it does. A four star read. ( )
1 vote baswood | Dec 15, 2014 |
Read during Winter 2002/2003

Book two of the Children of Violence series begins only a few days after Martha Quest ends. She is newly married and still as conflicted and resentful as ever. However, it is also the outbreak of WWII and the war brings changes to the colony with the influx of Air Force men and new ideas. She is miserable and unable to figure her way through her political ideals and resentment of the opressive female society she is buried in as wife and mother. I really thought it would be more of the painful internal struggles as the first book but by the end she actually seems to be finding her way and walks away from her marriage in the final sentence. But there are still three novels to go so I'll see what happens to her
  amyem58 | Jul 14, 2014 |
Indimenticabili la gestazione e il parto di Martha Quest, il suo smarrimento attonito che sfocia infine nella scelta. ( )
  nectocaris | Feb 5, 2014 |
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An unconventional woman trapped in a conventional marriage, Martha Quest struggles to maintain her dignity and her sanity through the misunderstandings, frustrations, infidelities, and degrading violence of a failing marriage. Finally, she must make the heartbreaking choice of whether to sacrifice her child as she turns her back on marriage and security. A Proper Marriage is the second novel in Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence series of novels, each a masterpiece on its own right, and, taken together, an incisive and all-encompassing vision of our world in the twentieth century.

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