You know, I can't help wondering if Ben might not be read as an extended metaphor for the male homosexual. Horrific under the specter of AIDS in the late 80's, more pitiable, evoking the possibility of empathy, by the end of the 20th century.
*ahem* Sorry. Way out in left field about now.Lessing, Doris. Ben, in the World. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.Summary
: Sequel to The Fifth Child
. The not-quite-human Ben in the world finds both safety and exploitation with an old woman, a prostitute and her pimp, a film director and his mistress, a cohort of unethical scientists, among others. In the end, unable to locate any of his own kind, except in pictures on a mountain cave wall, he commits suicide, hurdling to his death.Comments
: Much less portentious and frightening than its prequel, whose only views of Ben are through the eyes of people who are terrified of him, this story, told from the perspective of an omniscent narrator (who has thing for digressions), reveals Ben as essentially good-hearted but vulnerable and lonely, trying to restrain urges alien to the rest of the populace. For example, he avoids his mother when he sees the hated Paul with her so that he does not descend into an involuntary murderous rage, and, though any sex act he performs must be "animalistic," he does not indiscriminately rape women that attract him. (So much for what you were thinking, eh Mom?) Indeed, Lessing no longer writes about the horrors of the inhuman but rather the tragedies. Whether that's more or less to write home about is debatable and maybe it's just a sign of the changing times, but Lessing's instinct for her characters and the many worlds they inhabit--from England to France to Brazil--are impeccable. Notes
: hardcover, 1st edition Rating
- Quite solid...but, as sequels often are, not quite as strong as the original.