Books: The White Bird of Truth

BRIEFING FOR A DESCENT INTO HELL by Doris Lessing. 308 pages. Knopf. $6.95.

A third of the way through Doris Lessing's new novel, a great white bird appears—4 ft. tall with a straight yellow beak. The light shines off its feathers "like sun off a snowfield." Its eyes are round, golden and steadily staring—in invitation, in challenge.

After the five novels in the Children of Violence series, and after The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing has finally confronted her Moby Dick. All the weathered idealism that survived two arduous decades of fiction-writing in South Africa, then...

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