‘The Sentimental Agents ...’ is set in the declining Volyen Empire as the empires of Sirius and Shammat compete to overwhelm it with rhetoric and false sentiment. The Canopean Empire deploys covert agents to help the Volyens resist. But one of these agents, Incent, succumbs to ‘Undulant Rhetoric’, and Agent Klorathy must go to Volyen to help him see through the empty words that have beguiled him.
Once more employing alien races to identify human failings, Lessing uses social and political satire to show how we misuse speech (and speeches) and delude ourselves with self-aggrandizing notions about the primacy of emotion. Her renowned insight into human behaviour goes hand in hand here with a vein of humour that sees her writing in the tradition of Voltaire and Swift.
The Grass Is Singing blends Lessing's imaginative vision with her own vividly remembered early childhood to recreate the quiet horror of a woman's struggle against a ruthless fate.