Doris Lessing

What’s terrible is to pretend that 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.

– Doris Lessing

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born in Kermanshah, Iran,  October 22, 1919

influences: Idries Shah, Olive Schreiner, Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre, Dostoevsky,…more
Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school (such as Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer), Lessing made herself into a self-educated intellectual.In 1937 she moved to Salisbury, where she worked as a telephone operator for a year. At nineteen, she married Frank Wisdom, and had two children. A few years later, feeling trapped in a persona that she feared would destroy her, she left her family, remaining in Salisbury. Soon she was drawn to the like-minded members of the Left Book Club, a group of Communists “who read everything, and who did not think it remarkable to read.” Gottfried Lessing was a central member of the group; shortly after she joined, they married and had a son.

During the postwar years, Lessing became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist movement, which she left altogether in 1954. By 1949, Lessing had moved to London with her young son. That year, she also published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, and began her career as a professional writer.

In June 1995 she received an Honorary Degree from Harvard University. Also in 1995, she visited South Africa to see her daughter and grandchildren, and to promote her autobiography. It was her first visit since being forcibly removed in 1956 for her political views. Ironically, she is welcomed now as a writer acclaimed for the very topics for which she was banished 40 years ago.

In 2001 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Literature, one of Spain’s most important distinctions, for her brilliant literary works in defense of freedom and Third World causes. She also received the David Cohen British Literature Prize.

She was on the shortlist for the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005. In 2007 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

(Extracted from the pamphlet: A Reader’s Guide to The Golden Notebook & Under My Skin, HarperPerennial, 1995. Full text available on www.dorislessing.org)

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6 thoughts on “Doris Lessing

  1. October 22, 1919: Happy 94th birthday, Doris Lessing! Upon learning that she’d been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature she said, “I’ve won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I’m delighted to win them all. It’s a royal flush.”

  2. Good quote. Alice Munro, is she Canadian? The reason being I found out from the Spanish guide that she won an award in writing.

  3. Great, informative post. I never knew she was born in Iran. Thank you.

  4. One of the first author who introduced me to fantasy genre. 🙂

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