The archive of 150 letters from Lessing to “Smithie”, a 19-year-old cadet pilot in the RAF when he met a 24-year-old Lessing in Southern Rhodesia in 1944, was acquired by the University of Sussex in 1993. It was kept closed, in line with Lessing and Smith’s wishes, until the novelist’s death in 2013. Smith had died in 1996, writing in an introduction to the archive that “like all the other RAF men, I immediately fell in love with her”. The university has now opened the archive, revealing details of what it said was a series of complex personal relationships.
Spanning several decades, the letters reveal the married Lessing writing to Smith about everything from the Soviet Union and Communist party politics to her father’s illness and death – when he dies in 1947, she writes: “Dear Christ Smithie I wish I could take a sledge hammer and smash up this world.” MORE