Doris Lessing
Overview
 
Doris May Lessing CH
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

 (née Tayler; born 22 October 1919) is a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

. Her novels include The Grass is Singing
The Grass Is Singing
The Grass Is Singing is the first novel, published in 1950, by British Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing. It takes place in Rhodesia , in southern Africa, during the 1940s and deals with the racial politics between whites and blacks in that country...

, The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook is a 1962 novel by Doris Lessing. This book, as well as the couple that followed it, enters the realm of what Margaret Drabble in The Oxford Companion to English Literature has called Lessing's "inner space fiction", her work that explores mental and societal breakdown...

, and five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos
Canopus in Argos
Canopus in Argos: Archives is a sequence of five science fiction novels by Nobel Prize in Literature-winning author Doris Lessing which portray a number of societies at different stages of development, over a great period of time...

.

Lessing was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

. She was described by the Swedish Academy
Swedish Academy
The Swedish Academy , founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden.-History:The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III. Modelled after the Académie française, it has 18 members. The motto of the Academy is "Talent and Taste"...

 as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny". Lessing was the eleventh woman and the oldest ever person to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In 2001, Lessing was awarded the David Cohen Prize
David Cohen Prize
The David Cohen Prize for Literature is a biennial British literary award given to a writer, novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist or dramatist in recognition of an entire body of work, written in the English language. The prize is funded by the John S. Cohen Foundation and administered by...

 for a lifetime's achievement in British Literature
British literature
British Literature refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. By far the largest part of British literature is written in the English language, but there are bodies of written works in Latin, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Manx, Jèrriais,...

.
Quotations

It is terrible to destroy a person's picture of himself in the interests of truth or some other abstraction.

The Grass Is Singing|The Grass Is Singing, ch. 2 (1950)

In university they don't tell you that the greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools.

Martha Quest (1952), Part III, ch. 2

If a fish is the movement of water embodied, given shape, then cat is a diagram and pattern of subtle air.

Particularly Cats, ch. 2 (1967)

That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you've understood all your life, but in a new way.

The Four-Gated City|The Four-Gated City (1969)

Literature is analysis after the event.

Quoted in Children of Albion: Poetry of the Underground in Britain, ed. Michael Horovitz (1969): Afterwords, section 2

Laughter is by definition healthy.

The Summer Before the Dark (1973)

Nonsense, it was all nonsense: this whole damned outfit, with its committees, its conferences, its eternal talk, talk, talk, was a great con trick; it was a mechanism to earn a few hundred men and women incredible sums of money.

The Summer Before the Dark (1973)

You know, whenever women make imaginary female kingdoms in literature, they are always very permissive, to use the jargon word, and easy and generous and self-indulgent, like the relationships between women when there are no men around. They make each other presents, and they have little feasts, and nobody punishes anyone else. This is the female way of going along when there are no men about or when men are not in the ascendant.

New York Times Book Review (30 March 1980), p. 24

It can be considered a rule that the probable duration of an Empire may be prognosticated by the degree to which its rulers believe in their own propaganda.

The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire (1983), p. 94, Flamingo edition

Encyclopedia
Doris May Lessing CH
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

 (née Tayler; born 22 October 1919) is a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

. Her novels include The Grass is Singing
The Grass Is Singing
The Grass Is Singing is the first novel, published in 1950, by British Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing. It takes place in Rhodesia , in southern Africa, during the 1940s and deals with the racial politics between whites and blacks in that country...

, The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook is a 1962 novel by Doris Lessing. This book, as well as the couple that followed it, enters the realm of what Margaret Drabble in The Oxford Companion to English Literature has called Lessing's "inner space fiction", her work that explores mental and societal breakdown...

, and five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos
Canopus in Argos
Canopus in Argos: Archives is a sequence of five science fiction novels by Nobel Prize in Literature-winning author Doris Lessing which portray a number of societies at different stages of development, over a great period of time...

.

Lessing was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

. She was described by the Swedish Academy
Swedish Academy
The Swedish Academy , founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden.-History:The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III. Modelled after the Académie française, it has 18 members. The motto of the Academy is "Talent and Taste"...

 as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny". Lessing was the eleventh woman and the oldest ever person to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In 2001, Lessing was awarded the David Cohen Prize
David Cohen Prize
The David Cohen Prize for Literature is a biennial British literary award given to a writer, novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist or dramatist in recognition of an entire body of work, written in the English language. The prize is funded by the John S. Cohen Foundation and administered by...

 for a lifetime's achievement in British Literature
British literature
British Literature refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. By far the largest part of British literature is written in the English language, but there are bodies of written works in Latin, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Manx, Jèrriais,...

. In 2008, The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

ranked her fifth on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Background

Lessing was born in Iran, then known as Persia, on 22 October 1919, to Captain Alfred Tayler and Emily Maude Tayler (née McVeagh), who were both English and of British nationality. Her father, who had lost a leg during his service in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, met his future wife, a nurse, at the Royal Free Hospital
Royal Free Hospital
The Royal Free Hospital is a major teaching hospital in Hampstead, London, England and part of the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust....

 where he was recovering from his amputation
Amputation
Amputation is the removal of a body extremity by trauma, prolonged constriction, or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as malignancy or gangrene. In some cases, it is carried out on individuals as a preventative surgery for...

. Alfred Tayler and his wife moved to Kermanshah
Kermanshah
Kermanshah is a city in and the capital of Kermanshah Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 784,602, in 198,117 families.The overwhelming majority of Kermanshahi people are Shi'a Muslims...

, Iran, in order to take up a job as a clerk for the Imperial Bank of Persia
Imperial Bank of Persia
The Imperial Bank of Persia was an Iranian bank. It was established in 1885 with a concession from the government of Persia to Baron Julius De Reuter, under a Royal charter from Queen Victoria....

 and it was here that Doris was born in 1919. The family then moved to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia was the name of the British colony situated north of the Limpopo River and the Union of South Africa. From its independence in 1965 until its extinction in 1980, it was known as Rhodesia...

 (now Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

) in 1925 to farm maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

, when her father purchased around one thousand acre
Acre
The acre is a unit of area in a number of different systems, including the imperial and U.S. customary systems. The most commonly used acres today are the international acre and, in the United States, the survey acre. The most common use of the acre is to measure tracts of land.The acre is related...

s of bush. Lessing's mother
attempted to lead an Edwardian lifestyle amidst the rough environment, which would have been easy had the family been wealthy; in reality, such a lifestyle was not feasible. The farm was not successful and failed to deliver the wealth the Taylers had expected.

Lessing was educated at the Dominican Convent High School
Dominican Convent High School, Harare
Dominican Convent High School, is the oldest established school in Harare. It was founded in 1892 by Mother Patrick, an Irish nun, with 10 pupils. There is also a Dominican Convent High School in Bulawayo....

, a Roman Catholic convent
Convent
A convent is either a community of priests, religious brothers, religious sisters, or nuns, or the building used by the community, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Anglican Communion...

 all-girls school in Salisbury (now Harare
Harare
Harare before 1982 known as Salisbury) is the largest city and capital of Zimbabwe. It has an estimated population of 1,600,000, with 2,800,000 in its metropolitan area . Administratively, Harare is an independent city equivalent to a province. It is Zimbabwe's largest city and its...

). She left school aged 14, and thereafter was self-educated; she left home at 15 and worked as a nursemaid
Nursemaid
A nursemaid or nursery maid, is mostly a historical term of employment for a female servant in an elite household. In the 21st century, the position is largely defunct, owing to the relatively small number of households who maintain large staffs with the traditional hierarchy.The nursery maid...

. She started reading material on politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 and sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 that her employer gave her, and began writing around this time. In 1937, Lessing moved to Salisbury to work as a telephone operator
Telephone operator
A telephone operator is either* a person who provides assistance to a telephone caller, usually in the placing of operator assisted telephone calls such as calls from a pay phone, collect calls , calls which are billed to a credit card, station-to-station and person-to-person calls, and certain...

, and she soon married her first husband, Frank Wisdom, with whom she had two children (John and Jean), before the marriage ended in 1943.

Following her divorce, Lessing was drawn to the community of the Left Book Club
Left Book Club
The Left Book Club, founded in 1936, was a key left-wing institution of the late 1930s and 1940s in the United Kingdom set up by Stafford Cripps, Victor Gollancz and John Strachey to revitalise and educate the British Left. The Club's aim was to "help in the struggle For world peace and against...

, a communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 book club
Book sales club
A book sales club is a subscription-based method of selling and purchasing books. It is more often called simply a book club, a term that is also used to describe a book discussion club, which can cause confusion.-How book sales clubs work:...

 which she had joined the year before. It was here that she met her second husband, Gottfried Lessing
Gottfried Lessing
Gottfried Anton Nicolai Lessing was a German lawyer, political activist and diplomat. Being Jewish, he was forced to migrate from Germany in 1938. First he sought refuge in Britain. Later he moved to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia . He worked as a lawyer in Salisbury 1941-1946...

. They were married shortly after she joined the group, and had a child together (Peter), before the marriage also ended in divorce in 1949. Gottfried Lessing later became the East German ambassador to Uganda
Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

, and was murdered in the 1979 rebellion
Rebellion
Rebellion, uprising or insurrection, is a refusal of obedience or order. It may, therefore, be seen as encompassing a range of behaviors aimed at destroying or replacing an established authority such as a government or a head of state...

 against Idi Amin Dada.

When she fled to London to pursue her writing career and communist ideals, she left two toddlers with their father in South Africa (another, from her second marriage, went with her). She later said that at the time she thought she had no choice: "For a long time I felt I had done a very brave thing. There is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children. I felt I wasn't the best person to bring them up. I would have ended up an alcoholic or a frustrated intellectual like my mother."

Writing career

Because of her campaigning against nuclear arms and South African apartheid, Lessing was banned from that country and from Rhodesia for many years. She moved to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 with her youngest son in 1949. Her first novel, The Grass Is Singing
The Grass Is Singing
The Grass Is Singing is the first novel, published in 1950, by British Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing. It takes place in Rhodesia , in southern Africa, during the 1940s and deals with the racial politics between whites and blacks in that country...

, was published in 1950. Her breakthrough work, The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook is a 1962 novel by Doris Lessing. This book, as well as the couple that followed it, enters the realm of what Margaret Drabble in The Oxford Companion to English Literature has called Lessing's "inner space fiction", her work that explores mental and societal breakdown...

, was written in 1962.

In 1984, she attempted to publish two novels under a pseudonym, Jane Somers, to demonstrate the difficulty new authors faced in trying to break into print. The novels were declined by Lessing's UK publisher, but accepted by another English publisher, Michael Joseph, and in the US by Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. is a New York publishing house, founded by Alfred A. Knopf, Sr. in 1915. It was acquired by Random House in 1960 and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Random House. The publishing house is known for its borzoi trademark , which was designed by co-founder...

. The Diary of a Good Neighbour was published in England and the US in 1983, and If the Old Could in both countries in 1984 http://www.dorislessing.org/ifthe.htmlin, both as written by "Jane Somers." In 1984, both novels were re-published in both countries (Viking Books publishing in the US), this time under one cover, with the title The Diaries of Jane Somers: The Diary of a Good Neighbor and If the Old Could, listing Doris Lessing as author.

She declined a damehood
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

, but accepted appointment as a Companion of Honour
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

 at the end of 1999 for "conspicuous national service". She has also been made a Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

.

In 2007, Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was 87, making her the oldest winner of the literature prize at the time of the award and the third oldest Nobel Laureate in any category. She also stands as only the eleventh woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature by the Swedish Academy
Swedish Academy
The Swedish Academy , founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden.-History:The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III. Modelled after the Académie française, it has 18 members. The motto of the Academy is "Talent and Taste"...

 in its 106-year history. Lessing was out shopping for groceries when the announcement came, arriving home to tell reporters who had gathered there, "Oh Christ!”. She told reporters outside her home "I've won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I'm delighted to win them all. It's a royal flush." She titled her Nobel Lecture On Not Winning the Nobel Prize and used it to draw attention to global inequality of opportunity, and to explore changing attitudes to storytelling and literature. The lecture was later published in a limited edition to raise money for children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS
AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

. In a 2008 interview for the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

's Front Row
Front Row (radio)
Front Row is a radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The BBC describes the programme as a "live magazine programme on the world of arts, literature, film, media and music." It is broadcast each week day between 7.15 and 7.45 and has a of highlights available for download. Shows usually include...

, she stated that increased media interest following the award had left her without time for writing.

Lessing's fiction

Lessing's fiction is commonly divided into three distinct phases: the Communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 theme (1944–1956), when she was writing radically on social issues (to which she returned in The Good Terrorist
The Good Terrorist
The Good Terrorist is a 1985 novel by Doris Lessing. The story examines the events in the life of a well-intentioned squatter, Alice, who is drawn into organizing acts of violence.-Main characters:...

[1985]), the psychological
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 theme (1956–1969), and after that the Sufi
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

 theme, which was explored in the Canopus in Argos
Canopus in Argos
Canopus in Argos: Archives is a sequence of five science fiction novels by Nobel Prize in Literature-winning author Doris Lessing which portray a number of societies at different stages of development, over a great period of time...

 sequence of science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 (or as she preferred to put it "space fiction") novels and novella
Novella
A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative usually longer than a novelette but shorter than a novel. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards for science fiction define the novella as having a word count between 17,500 and 40,000...

s.

Lessing's Canopus sequence was not popular with many mainstream literary critics. For example, in the New York Times in 1982 John Leonard
John Leonard (American critic)
John Leonard was an American literary, television, film, and cultural critic.-Biography:John Leonard grew up in Washington, D.C., Jackson Heights, Queens, and Long Beach, California, where he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School...

 wrote in reference to The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 is a 1982 science fiction novel by Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing. It is the fourth book in her five-book Canopus in Argos series and relates the fate of a planet, under the care of the benevolent galactic empire Canopus, that is plunged...

that "[o]ne of the many sins for which the 20th century will be held accountable is that it has discouraged Mrs. Lessing... She now propagandizes on behalf of our insignificance in the cosmic razzmatazz." To which Lessing replied: "What they didn't realize was that in science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time. I also admire the classic sort of science fiction, like Blood Music, by Greg Bear
Greg Bear
Gregory Dale Bear is an American science fiction and mainstream author. His work has covered themes of galactic conflict , artificial universes , consciousness and cultural practices , and accelerated evolution...

. He's a great writer." Unlike some authors primarily known for their mainstream
Mainstream
Mainstream is, generally, the common current thought of the majority. However, the mainstream is far from cohesive; rather the concept is often considered a cultural construct....

 work, she has never hesitated to admit that she wrote science fiction and attended the 1987
45th World Science Fiction Convention
The 45th World Science Fiction Convention , also known as Conspiracy '87, was held 27 August – 1 September 1987 at the Metropole Hotel and The Brighton Centre in Brighton, England....

 World Science Fiction Convention as its Writer Guest of Honor. Here she made a well-received speech in which she described her dystopian novel Memoirs of a Survivor
Memoirs of a Survivor
The Memoirs of a Survivor is a dystopian novel by Nobel Prize-winner Doris Lessing. It was first published in 1974 by Octagon Press. It was made into a film in 1981, starring Julie Christie and Nigel Hawthorne, and directed by David Gladwell.-Plot:...

as "an attempt at an autobiography."

When asked about which of her books she considers most important, Lessing chose the Canopus in Argos sequence. These novels present an advanced interstellar society's efforts to accelerate the evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 of other worlds, including Earth. (Similar concepts occur in science fiction by other authors, e.g. the Progressor
Progressor
Progressors in science fiction are people of an advanced space-faring civilization who facilitate progress of less advanced civilizations. It comes from a perspective very much the opposite of what motivates Star Trek's famous Prime Directive....

 and Uplift
Uplift Universe
The Uplift Universe is a fictional universe created by science fiction writer David Brin. A central feature in this universe is the process of biological uplift.His books which take place in this universe:* Sundiver...

 sequences.) Using Sufi concepts, to which Lessing had been introduced in the mid-1960s by her "good friend and teacher" Idries Shah
Idries Shah
Idries Shah , also known as Idris Shah, né Sayed Idries el-Hashimi , was an author and teacher in the Sufi tradition who wrote over three dozen critically acclaimed books on topics ranging from psychology and spirituality to travelogues and culture studies.Born in India, the descendant of a...

, the series of novels also owes much to the approach employed by the early 20th century mystic G. I. Gurdjieff
G. I. Gurdjieff
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff according to Gurdjieff's principles and instructions, or the "Fourth Way."At one point he described his teaching as "esoteric Christianity."...

 in his work All and Everything
All and Everything
All and Everything is the name of a trilogy composed by ten books, all written by G. I. Gurdjieff. The ten books were further categorized into three series:# Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson.# Meetings with Remarkable Men....

. Earlier works of "inner space" fiction like Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) and Memoirs of a Survivor
Memoirs of a Survivor
The Memoirs of a Survivor is a dystopian novel by Nobel Prize-winner Doris Lessing. It was first published in 1974 by Octagon Press. It was made into a film in 1981, starring Julie Christie and Nigel Hawthorne, and directed by David Gladwell.-Plot:...

(1974) also connect to this theme. Lessing's interest had turned to Sufism after coming to the realization that Marxism ignored spiritual matters, leaving her disillusioned.

Lessing's novel The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook is a 1962 novel by Doris Lessing. This book, as well as the couple that followed it, enters the realm of what Margaret Drabble in The Oxford Companion to English Literature has called Lessing's "inner space fiction", her work that explores mental and societal breakdown...

is considered a feminist
Feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

 classic by some scholars, but notably not by the author herself, who later wrote that its theme of mental breakdowns as a means of healing and freeing one's self from illusions had been overlooked by critics. She also regretted that critics failed to appreciate the exceptional structure of the novel. She explained in Walking in the Shade that she modelled Molly partly on her good friend Joan Rodker
Joan Rodker
Joan Rodker was a British political activist and television producer.The daughter of the modernist poet John Rodker and dancer Sonia Cohen, who placed her into care at eighteen months, where she remained until she was aged eleven...

, the daughter of the modernist poet and publisher John Rodker
John Rodker
John Rodker was a British writer, modernist poet, and publisher of some of the major modernist figures. He was born in Manchester into a Jewish immigrant family, who moved to London while he was still young.-Career:...

.

Lessing does not like the idea of being pigeonholed as a feminist author. When asked why, she explained:

Archive

Lessing's largest literary archive is held by the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
The Harry Ransom Center is a library and archive at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in the collection of literary and cultural artifacts from the United States and Europe. The Ransom Center houses 36 million literary manuscripts, 1 million rare books, 5 million photographs, and more...

, at the University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in Austin...

. The 45 archival boxes of Lessing's materials at the Ransom Center contain nearly all of her extant manuscripts and typescripts up to 1999. Original material for Lessing's early books is assumed not to exist because she kept none of her early manuscripts. Other institutions, including the McFarlin Library at the University of Tulsa
University of Tulsa
The University of Tulsa is a private university awarding bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. It is currently ranked 75th among doctoral degree granting universities in the nation by US News and World Report and is listed as one of the "Best 366 Colleges" by...

, hold smaller collections.

Awards

  • Somerset Maugham Award
    Somerset Maugham Award
    The Somerset Maugham Award is a British literary prize given each May by the Society of Authors. It is awarded to whom they judge to be the best writer or writers under the age of thirty-five of a book published in the past year. The prize was instituted in 1947 by William Somerset Maugham and thus...

     (1954)
  • Prix Médicis étranger (1976)
  • Austrian State Prize for European Literature
    Austrian State Prize for European Literature
    The Austrian State Prize for European Literature , also known as the European Literary Award , is a literary prize in Austria awarded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Art to European writers...

     (1981)
  • Shakespeare-Preis der Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F. V. S.
    Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S.
    The Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. is a German foundation established in 1931 by the Hamburg merchant Alfred Toepfer. The foundation is committed to promoting European unification and ensuring cultural diversity and understanding between the countries of Europe.- History :The rich industrialist...

    , Hamburg (1982)
  • W. H. Smith Literary Award (1986)
  • Palermo Prize (1987)
  • Premio Internazionale Mondello (1987)
  • Premio Grinzane Cavour (1989)
  • James Tait Black Memorial Prize
    James Tait Black Memorial Prize
    Founded in 1919, the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are among the oldest and most prestigious book prizes awarded for literature written in the English language and are Britain's oldest literary awards...

     for biography (1995)
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1995)
  • Premi Internacional Catalunya (1999)
  • Order of the Companions of Honour
    Order of the Companions of Honour
    The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

     (1999)
  • Companion of Literature of the Royal Society of Literature
    Royal Society of Literature
    The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

     (2000)
  • David Cohen Prize
    David Cohen Prize
    The David Cohen Prize for Literature is a biennial British literary award given to a writer, novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist or dramatist in recognition of an entire body of work, written in the English language. The prize is funded by the John S. Cohen Foundation and administered by...

     (2001)
  • Premio Príncipe de Asturias
    Prince of Asturias Awards
    The Prince of Asturias Awards are a series of annual prizes awarded in Spain by the Prince of Asturias Foundation to individuals, entities or organizations from around the world who make notable achievements in the sciences, humanities, and public affairs....

     (2001)
  • S.T. Dupont Golden PEN Award (2002)
  • Nobel Prize in Literature
    Nobel Prize in Literature
    Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

     (2007)

Works

Novels
  • The Grass is Singing
    The Grass Is Singing
    The Grass Is Singing is the first novel, published in 1950, by British Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing. It takes place in Rhodesia , in southern Africa, during the 1940s and deals with the racial politics between whites and blacks in that country...

    (1950)
  • Retreat to Innocence (1956)
  • The Golden Notebook
    The Golden Notebook
    The Golden Notebook is a 1962 novel by Doris Lessing. This book, as well as the couple that followed it, enters the realm of what Margaret Drabble in The Oxford Companion to English Literature has called Lessing's "inner space fiction", her work that explores mental and societal breakdown...

    (1962)
  • Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971)
  • The Summer Before the Dark (1973)
  • Memoirs of a Survivor
    Memoirs of a Survivor
    The Memoirs of a Survivor is a dystopian novel by Nobel Prize-winner Doris Lessing. It was first published in 1974 by Octagon Press. It was made into a film in 1981, starring Julie Christie and Nigel Hawthorne, and directed by David Gladwell.-Plot:...

    (1974)
  • The Diary of a Good Neighbour (as Jane Somers, 1983)
  • If the Old Could... (as Jane Somers, 1984)
  • The Good Terrorist
    The Good Terrorist
    The Good Terrorist is a 1985 novel by Doris Lessing. The story examines the events in the life of a well-intentioned squatter, Alice, who is drawn into organizing acts of violence.-Main characters:...

     
    (1985)
  • The Fifth Child
    The Fifth Child
    The Fifth Child is a novel by Nobel Prize-winner Doris Lessing, first published in the United Kingdom in 1988, and since translated into a number of languages...

    (1988)
  • Love, Again (1996)
  • Mara and Dann (1999)
  • Ben, in the World (2000) – sequel to The Fifth Child
  • The Sweetest Dream
    The Sweetest Dream
    The Sweetest Dream is a 2001 novel by British Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing. The novel begins in the 1960s leading up to the 1980s and is set in London and the fictional African nation, Zimlia, a thinly veiled reference to Zimbabwe....

    (2001)
  • The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog (2005) – sequel to Mara and Dann
  • The Cleft
    The Cleft
    The Cleft is a novel by Doris Lessing.-Plot summary:The story is narrated by a Roman historian, during the time of the Emperor Nero. He tells the story as a secret history of humanity's beginnings, as pieced together from scraps of documents and oral histories, passed down through the...

    (2007)
  • Alfred and Emily
    Alfred and Emily
    Alfred and Emily is a 2008 part fiction, part memoir book by British Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing . The story is structured in two parts and is based on the lives of Lessing's parents. The first is a novella, a fictional portrait of how her parents lives would have been without...

    (2008)

The Children of Violence series
  • Martha Quest (1952)
  • A Proper Marriage (1954)
  • A Ripple from the Storm (1958)
  • Landlocked (1965)
  • The Four-Gated City
    The Four-Gated City
    The Four-Gated City is a novel, published in 1969, by British Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing. It concludes the five-volume series Children of Violence, a literary achievement which took nearly twenty years. The Four-Gated City is sometimes regarded as one of Lessing's most important works...

    (1969)

The Canopus in Argos: Archives
Canopus in Argos
Canopus in Argos: Archives is a sequence of five science fiction novels by Nobel Prize in Literature-winning author Doris Lessing which portray a number of societies at different stages of development, over a great period of time...

 series
  • Shikasta
    Shikasta
    Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta is a 1979 science fiction novel by British Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing, and is the first book in her five-book Canopus in Argos series. It was first published in the United States in October 1979 by Alfred A. Knopf, and in the United Kingdom in...

    (1979)
  • The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five
    The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five
    The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five is a 1980 science fiction novel by Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing. It is the second book in her five-book Canopus in Argos series....

    (1980)
  • The Sirian Experiments
    The Sirian Experiments
    The Sirian Experiments is a 1980 science fiction novel by Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing. It is the third book in her five-book Canopus in Argos series and continues the story of Earth's evolution, which has been manipulated from the beginning by advanced extraterrestrial...

    (1980)
  • The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
    The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
    The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 is a 1982 science fiction novel by Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing. It is the fourth book in her five-book Canopus in Argos series and relates the fate of a planet, under the care of the benevolent galactic empire Canopus, that is plunged...

    (1982)
  • The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire
    The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire
    The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire is a 1983 science fiction novel by Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing...

    (1983)

Opera libretti
  • The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
    The Making Of The Representative For Planet 8 (opera)
    The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 is a full-scale opera by Philip Glass with a libretto by Doris Lessing.The opera was co-commissioned by English National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam and Theater Kiel, and co-produced with Artpark, Lewiston, New York...

    (music by Philip Glass
    Philip Glass
    Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

    , 1986)
  • The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five (music by Philip Glass, 1997)

Comics
  • Playing the Game (graphic novel
    Graphic novel
    A graphic novel is a narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using sequential art in either an experimental design or in a traditional comics format...

     illustrated by Charlie Adlard
    Charlie Adlard
    Charles "Charlie" Adlard is a British comic book artist and penciller.He is best known for providing art on The Walking Dead and Savage.-Biography:...

    , 1995)

Drama
  • Each His Own Wilderness (three plays, 1959)
  • Play with a Tiger (1962)

Poetry
  • Fourteen Poems (1959)
  • The Wolf People - INPOPA Anthology 2002 (poems by Lessing, Robert Twigger and T.H. Benson, 2002)


Short story collections
  • Five Short Novels (1953)
  • The Habit of Loving (1957)
  • A Man and Two Women (1963)
  • African Stories (1964)
  • Winter in July (1966)
  • The Black Madonna (1966)
  • The Story of a Non-Marrying Man (1972)
  • This Was the Old Chief's Country: Collected African Stories, Vol. 1 (1973)
  • The Sun Between Their Feet: Collected African Stories, Vol. 2 (1973)
  • To Room Nineteen: Collected Stories, Vol. 1 (1978)
  • The Temptation of Jack Orkney: Collected Stories, Vol. 2 (1978)
  • Through the Tunnel
    Through the Tunnel
    "Through the Tunnel" is a short story written by Doris Lessing, originally published in The New Yorker in 1955.-Plot:Jerry, a young English boy, and his mother are vacationing at a beach they have come to many times in years past. Though the beach’s location is not given, it is implied to be in a...

    (1990)
  • London Observed: Stories and Sketches (1992)
  • The Real Thing: Stories and Sketches (1992)
  • Spies I Have Known (1995)
  • The Pit (1996)
  • The Grandmothers: Four Short Novels
    The Grandmothers: Four Short Novels
    The Grandmothers: Four Short Novels is collection of four short stories published in 2003 by 2007 Nobel laureate Doris Lessing.-The Grandmothers:...

    (2003)

Cat Tales
  • Particularly Cats (stories and nonfiction, 1967)
  • Particularly Cats and Rufus the Survivor (stories and nonfiction, 1993)
  • The Old Age of El Magnifico (stories and nonfiction, 2000)
  • On Cats (2002) – omnibus edition containing the above three books

Autobiography and memoirs
  • Going Home (memoir, 1957)
  • African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe (memoir, 1992)
  • Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949
    Under My Skin (book)
    Under My Skin: Volume I of my Autobiography, to 1949 was the first volume of Doris Lessing's autobiography, covering the period of her life from birth in 1919 to leaving Zimbabwe in 1949....

    (1994)
  • Walking in the Shade: Volume Two of My Autobiography, 1949 to 1962 (1997)

Other nonfiction
  • In Pursuit of the English (1960)
  • Prisons We Choose to Live Inside
    Prisons We Choose to Live Inside
    Prisons We Choose to Live Inside is a collection of five essays by Doris Lessing which were previously delivered as the 1985 Massey Lectures.-The Essays:...

    (essays, 1987)
  • The Wind Blows Away Our Words (1987)
  • A Small Personal Voice (essays, 1994)
  • Conversations (interviews, edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, 1994)
  • Putting the Questions Differently (interviews, edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, 1996)
  • Time Bites (essays, 2004)
  • On Not Winning the Nobel Prize (Nobel Lecture, 2007, published 2008)


See also

  • Whites in Zimbabwe
    Whites in Zimbabwe
    White Zimbabweans are people from the southern African country Zimbabwe who identify themselves as white...

  • List of female Nobel laureates

External links

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