Story Of General Dann And Mara's Daughter Griot And The Snow Dog Paperback – Dec 7 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
This sequel to Lessing's futuristic novel Mara and Dann continues the saga of Dann, the refugee boy prince of the Mahondi, who searched with his older sister Mara for habitable land on a planet Earth beset by a new ice age. Several characters from that novel reappear, including Griot, a soldier who served under Dann, but Mara has died in childbirth. Grief deafens General Dann to the pleas of those who believe he alone can save civilization from the warring chaos of displaced populations. Lessing's long literary career includes much science fiction (the Canopus in Argos series), but this dystopia, underscored by its reluctant hero's existential dilemma—why go on just to go on?—resembles a classical myth, albeit one with no gods to intervene. As Dann disastrously tries to assuage his grief with opium, loyal Griot raises an army and finds a repository of books that preserves the wisdom of lost civilizations. Less of an adventure story than its predecessor, this sequel requires patience through several repetitive passages devoted to Dann's refusal to act. But that is a small price to pay for Lessing's acute observations. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
In Mara and Dann (1999), the orphaned brother and sister survive their perilous adventure as they slog across the devastated continent of Ifrik thousands of years in the future, and they finally separate knowing that their passion cannot be consummated. Now Dann is grief-stricken to learn that his sister has died in childbirth. A respected general, he has left his own demonic wife and child, but he meets up with Mara's child, Tamar, and loves her as his own, training her to take over as leader of his people. The intimate family connection, the "passionate shyness," is exquisitely rendered. Unfortunately, Tamar only arrives three-quarters of the way through the story. To get there, one must slog through endless generic journeys in a future world destroyed by drought, floods, ice, and mud, with armies of refugees fleeing war and famine. Of course, the message does connect with the dire warnings in today's disasters. But the drama is in the personal, not only Dann's family but also his bond with his loyal snow dog and his friendship with his army officer Griot. Clearly there is plenty more to come. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This isn't the desperate, fast paced adventure that "Mara and Dann" was but it does explore some interesting themes. For instance, Dann is obsessed with what he does not know. He is constantly tantalized by fragments of knowledge and remnants of truth. He is frustrated by the complacent incuriosity of those around him and it begs the question: When are we satisfied with our knowledge, world, condition? When do we stop asking questions? It has me examining my own desire to learn and I can empathize with his frustration of apathy.
I haven't finished the book. As I said I am still waiting for the story to begin but I've had that same anticipatory feeling in other Lessing novels and found that I was missing the story, the crux, because I was expecting something else. Once I realized this I could settle down and appreciate the challenge and story she was sharing with the reader. She is a unique writer and her style defies stereotype. Doris Lessing is a true artist whose talent and method of conveyance would be impossible to teach.
On a lighter note a "snow dog" has been introduced as a central character and I like stories that have fuzzy animal friends.
Read it if you are a Lessing fan but not as an introduction to her work.
The sequel begins nine months later, when Dann decides to fulfill his dream of exploring the Middle Sea to see for himself the ice-covered continent of Europe and ultimately to confront the demons that assailed him during his trek through the desert. The subsequent narrative expands upon two subjects from the first book: the lust for knowledge that fueled Mara and Dann's transcontinental journey and the drug-stimulated schizophrenia that inexorably worsens Dann's ability to lead, as a reluctant "general," the refugees who make up his slapdash army. During Dann's period of incapacity, the task of running the army devolves to a sidekick named Griot; like many messianic figures, Dann requires a loyal administrator to smooth over the public perception of his bipolar outbursts.
Although "The Story of General Dann" will make little sense if you haven't read the earlier book, as a sequel it is both satisfying (tying up loose ends and expanding on earlier themes) and frustrating (leaving just as many loose ends). The book's pacing is admittedly slower and the plot is slighter: this is more a character study than an adventure story. Significant portions of the book deal with Dann's psychological breakdowns, with Griot's hunger for Dann's approval, and with their obsession with finding out as much as they can about the mysteries of the past. This sequel seems, in fact, to be a bridge to a yet-to-be-published finale.
Yet Lessing still conveys her preoccupations with the frailty of knowledge and our continual need to recreate the discoveries of the past: "it's likes seeing the worlds of ghosts.... We are looking at words that were copied from others, written by people who lived long before them." In an interview with John Freeman, Lessing spoke about this theme: "What pains me is that everything the human race has created has happened in the last 10,000 years, you know, and most of it in the recent years. An ice age would just wipe that out. It would. Then we have to begin again then, don't we, which is what we always do." The Mara and Dann books, then, are not simply disturbing fantasies disguised as adventures stories, but parables on the tenuousness and persistence of human civilization.
It is a slightly disappointing sequel to "Mara and Dann" which lacks the latter's intensity because the plot is sluggish and less like the adventure the reader enjoyed in the first novel.
I'm referring to Lessing's preoccupation with consciousness: individual versus collective consciousness; the evolution of human consciousness (past, present and future); animal and even alien consciousness. She's also still fretting about all the waste and destruction of "what we've been landed with" (see The Four Gated City). Now she's particularly aggrieved over what we've done to the planet with which we've been landed.
Compared to the nonstop perils that Mara and Dann constantly struggled against, not that much happens in the sequel, other than the interactions between the characters. The most interesting of these is the relationship between Dann and Ruff, the snow dog he rescues from drowning as a pup. Lessing has written much about cats, but this is her first foray into dog consciousness. She is rarely sentimental, and makes no exception here--yet I defy readers to remain dry-eyed during certain passages involving Ruff.
Little did I know when I picked up A Proper Marriage nearly 35 years ago that I was being introduced to an author whose work would stimulate and nourish me for a lifetime. While this may not be my favorite of her work, I hope nothing I've said will dissuade anyone from reading it,or any of her other more than thirty books.