At 88, Doris Lessing is still
raging – at communists, war, Mrs Thatcher, the ‘bloody
Swedes’ who awarded her the Nobel Prize… but most of her
venom is reserved for the subject of what she says will be her
final book – her mother. She talks to Nigel Farndale. Portrait by
Reme Campos

It takes Doris Lessing just four minutes to come out with
something, if not actually controversial, then at least unexpected.
It’s about Hitler. She says she understands him. This from a
former member of the Communist Party. (She left in 1956, the year of
Khrushchev’s speech to the 20th Congress, the one in which he
denounced Stalin.) We are talking, I should explain, about Erich
Maria Remarque, the author of All Quiet on the Western Front. She
recently read another of his books, about three German soldiers who,
like Hitler, return from the Great War to the economic chaos of the
Weimar Republic. ‘They see people carting millions of marks
around in wheelbarrows and, being old comrades, they stand by each
other. And as you read that you suddenly understand Hitler.’