Penniless, rambling and incoherent, a man is found wandering at night on London's Embankment. Taken to hospital and heavily sedated, he tells the doctors off his incredible fantastical voyage, adrift on the ocean, landing on unknown shores, flying on the back of a huge white bird. Identified as Charles Watkins, a Cambridge Classics professor, he is visited by family and friends, each revealing clues to the nature of his breakdown: both his young wife, Felicity, and his mistress, Constance, have been troubled by his cold detachment; his fellow dons are bewildered by Watkins's recent anti-social outbursts and anarchistic theories on the futility of education. As the doctors embark on their cure, Watkins begins a fierce battle to hold on to his magnificent inner world, as it gradually acquires a greater reality than the everyday... An extraordinary blend of fantasy and realism, Briefing for a Descent into Hell is one of Doris Lessing's most brilliantly achieved novels; it links her early work, which explored the nature of subjectivity, with her later experiments in science fiction. Its stunning indictment of the tyranny of society - one of the perennial themes of Lessing's writing - is powerful, disturbing and, as always, magnificently rendered.