The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook

by

Doris Lessing

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Appearing in the black notebook, Anna’s boyfriend in Africa, Willi Rodde, is a German exile who is the same person as Max Wulf in the blue and red notebooks. Willi is an unemotional, dedicated socialist and the oldest member of the group that includes Paul Blackenhurst, Jimmy, Ted, Maryrose, Anna and himself (and less consistently, Stanley, Johnnie, Mrs Lattimer, and George Hounslow). He has a deeply conservative sense of social mores that often contradicts comically with his leftist political beliefs. His relationship with Anna is transactional and “almost asexual”—the only time they had sex “with any conviction” was after she spent the night with Paul. While some (especially George) see Willi as an erudite, brilliant theorist, others (especially Paul) see him as too serious and disconnected from the social reality of colonial Africa. Despite his commitment to social change, Willi only thinks about revolution on a national scale and has no interest in the way interpersonal dynamics reflect or reproduce inequality, which leads him to celebrate Jackson’s firing and encourage George Hounslow to forget the fate of the mixed-race son he has with Marie. After the war and his breakup with Anna, Willi eventually becomes a bureaucrat in East Germany.

Willi Rodde Quotes in The Golden Notebook

The The Golden Notebook quotes below are all either spoken by Willi Rodde or refer to Willi Rodde . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon and Schuster edition of The Golden Notebook published in 1962.
The Notebooks: 1 Quotes

George said: “No, it’s the responsibility. It’s the gap between what I believe in and what I do.”

Related Characters: George Hounslow (speaker), Anna Wulf, Willi Rodde , Marie
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Free Women: 2 Quotes

“It seems to me like this. It’s not a terrible thing — I mean, it may be terrible, but it’s not damaging, it’s not poisoning, to do without something one wants. It’s not bad to say: My work is not what I really want, I’m capable of doing something bigger. Or I’m a person who needs love, and I’m doing without it. What’s terrible is to pretend that the second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don’t need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you’re capable of better. It would be very bad if I said, out of guilt or something: I loved Janet’s father, when I know quite well I didn’t. Or for your mother to say: I loved Richard. Or I’m doing work I love …”

Related Characters: Anna Wulf (speaker), Molly Jacobs, Tommy, Richard Portmain, Willi Rodde , Max Wulf
Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:
The Notebooks: 4 Quotes

Then I remembered that when I read my notebooks I didn’t recognize myself. Something strange happens when one writes about oneself. That is, one’s self direct, not one’s self projected. The result is cold, pitiless, judging. […] If Saul said, about his diaries, or, summing his younger self up from his later self: I was a swine, the way I treated women. Or: I’m right to treat women the way I do. Or: I’m simply writing a record of what happened, I’m not making moral judgements about myself — well, whatever he said, it would be irrelevant. Because what is left out of his diaries is vitality, life, charm. “Willi allowed his spectacles to glitter across the room and said …” “Saul, standing foursquare and solid, grinning slightly — grinning derisively at his own seducer’s pose, drawled: Come’n baby, let’s fuck, I like your style.” I went on reading entries, first appalled by the cold ruthlessness of them; then translating them, from knowing Saul, into life. So I found myself continually shifting mood, from anger, a woman’s anger, into the delight one feels at whatever is alive, the delight of recognition.

Related Characters: Anna Wulf (speaker), Willi Rodde , Saul Green
Related Symbols: Anna’s Notebooks
Page Number: 545-6
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Golden Notebook LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Notebook PDF

Willi Rodde Character Timeline in The Golden Notebook

The timeline below shows where the character Willi Rodde appears in The Golden Notebook. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Notebooks: 1
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
The black notebook starts following Anna’s involvement in her political “sub-group.” She meets Willi Rodde, who helps her get involved in politics, even though they do not get along... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...is so charming that people scarcely realize his coldness, or that he is mocking them—unlike Willi, Paul had “an upper-class arrogance” (he came from a powerful family of English gentry). He... (full context)
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...group—in fact, to think about it as a group would be wrong, as Ted and Willi never get along, Ted has no connection to Paul Blackenhurst, and Anna is just “the... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Paul Blackenhurst and Willi hold the group together, with their arguments in the Gainsborough Hotel—which is “really a boarding-house,”... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...story he had told the proprietor, Mr Boothby, about getting stuck in a tree, and Willi convinces him to open the dining room. Paul has already won the affection of a... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...Just as he had once shocked and subdued Maryrose’s mother with a few harsh words, Willi loves to bully Mrs Boothby. That night, they lead her to leave the dining room... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...Anna, leading them to exchange pained smiles they prefer not to think about, before asking Willi about politics. George underestimates his own intelligence and attractiveness, and he is always frustrated with... (full context)
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
That night, Willi explains his views on the area’s leftist groups to George Hounslow, but Paul Blackenhurst and... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...chases after them and grabs them—Jimmy falls and bloodies his forehead on the ground, and Willi reveals that “the reason why George didn’t want anyone near his caravan was because there... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...of the hotel’s guests are already partying, so all the socialists but the rigidly mannered Willi join. They stride into the kitchen, where Paul Blackenhurst asks the cook about his family... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...go “help Maryrose,” and George turns his attention to Anna, taking her outside to meet Willi on the verandah as the crowd filters into the big room. (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Willi says George Hounslow has no obligation to his illegitimate son, and Anna has conflicted feelings:... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
They dance until about five that night—Paul Blackenhurst with Anna, Willi with Maryrose (on whom George Hounslow was also fixated), and Jimmy, somehow cut and bleeding... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
There is another dance that weekend, and Anna’s “almost asexual” relationship with Willi continues to anchor the “romantic, adolescent relationships” between almost every other pair in the group.... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...walks outside and yells at Jackson, who goes home. The dancing resumes, and that night Willi is tense with Anna—both because he is tired of George and because he sees her... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...might be leaving any day for the war. He walks away, she follows him, and Willi intercepts her, bringing her into the bedroom, where he proclaims that Jackson’s firing is “the... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...Lattimer crying on the verandah and Mr Lattimer cruelly insulting her from inside. Anna meets Willi inside; he knows what had happened, and for the only time ever “mak[es] love to... (full context)
The Notebooks: 3
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...wants pigeon pie. She directs Paul to a nearby marsh, and he goes with Jimmy, Willi, Maryrose, and Anna out into the veld after breakfast. (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...enough resources for its million and a half blacks—like the whole world, says Maryrose. Humorlessly, Willi says to look to “the philosophy of the class struggle,” and everyone but Maryrose laughs... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...being covered with houses for workers and criticizes “the simple savagery” of Africans—another joke on Willi, who falls for it easily. Maryrose reassures Willi that they are laughing at his predictability,... (full context)
The Golden Notebook
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...seem “realistic,” crude, with a new attention to details, like Mrs Boothby’s curves and sweat, Willi’s humming, Mr Boothby’s “envious, but un-bitter” gaze at the man with his daughter June. There... (full context)