Lessing at lit.cologne in 2006
|Born||Doris May Tayler
22 October 1919
|Pen name||Jane Somers|
|Period||1950 – present|
|Genres||Biography, Drama, Libretto, Novel, Poem, Short Story|
|Literary movement||Modernism, Postmodernism, Sufism, Socialism, Feminism, Science fiction|
Doris May Lessing CH (née Tayler; born 22 October 1919) is a British novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer. Her novels include The Grass Is Singing (1950), the sequence of five novels collectively called Children of Violence (1952–69), The Golden Notebook (1962), The Good Terrorist (1985), and five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives (1979–1983).
Lessing was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In doing so the Swedish Academy described her 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 person to ever receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
In 2001, Lessing was awarded the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in British Literature. In 2008, The Times ranked her fifth on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
Life and work 
Early life 
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, met his future wife, a nurse, at the Royal Free Hospital where he was recovering from his amputation. Alfred Tayler and his wife moved to Kermanshah, Iran, in order to take up a job as a clerk for the Imperial Bank of Persia and it was there that Doris was born in 1919. The family then moved to the then British colony of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1925 to farm maize, among other plants, when her father purchased around one thousand acres 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 failed to deliver any monetary value in return .
Lessing was educated at the Dominican Convent High School, a Roman Catholic convent all-girls school in Salisbury (now Harare). She left school at the age of 14, and was self-educated from there on; she left home at 15 and worked as a nursemaid. She started reading material that her employer gave her, on politics and sociology  and began writing around this time. In 1937, Lessing moved to Salisbury to work as a telephone operator, 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 first divorce, Lessing's interest was drawn to the popular community of the Left Book Club, a communist book club which she had joined the year before. It was here that she met her future second husband, Gottfried Lessing. They were married shortly after she joined the group, and had a child together (Peter), before the marriage failed and ended in divorce in 1949. After these two failed marriages, she has not been married since. Later on Gottfried Lessing became the East German ambassador to Uganda, and was murdered in the 1979 rebellion against Idi Amin Dada.
When she fled to London to pursue her writing career and communist beliefs, 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."
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 with her youngest son in 1949. Her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, was published in 1950. Her breakthrough work, The Golden Notebook, was written in 1962.
In 1982 Doris Lessing attempted to publish two novels under a pseudonym, Jane Somers, to show the difficulty new authors faced in trying to have their works in print. The novels were declined by Lessing's UK publisher, but was later accepted by another English publisher, Michael Joseph, and in the US by Alfred A. Knopf. 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 , 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 instead of listing Jane Somers.
She declined a damehood, but accepted appointment as a Companion of Honour at the end of 1999 for "conspicuous national service". She has also been made a Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature.
In 2007, Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize in 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 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. In a 2008 interview for the BBC's Front Row, she stated that increased media interest following the award had left her without time for writing.
Lessing's fiction is commonly divided into three distinct phases: the Communist theme (1944–1956), when she was writing radically on social issues (to which she returned in The Good Terrorist ), the psychological theme (1956–1969), and after that the Sufi theme, which was explored in the Canopus in Argos sequence of science fiction (or as she preferred to put it "space fiction") novels and novellas.
Lessing's Canopus sequence was not popular with many mainstream literary critics. For example, in the New York Times in 1982 John Leonard wrote in reference to The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 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 propagandises on behalf of our insignificance in the cosmic razzmatazz," to which Lessing replied: "What they didn't realise 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. He's a great writer." Unlike some authors primarily known for their mainstream work, she has never hesitated to admit that she wrote science fiction and attended the 1987 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 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 of other worlds, including Earth. (Similar concepts occur in science fiction by other authors, e.g. the Progressor and Uplift sequences.) Using Sufi concepts, to which Lessing had been introduced in the mid-1960s by her "good friend and teacher" Idries Shah, the series of novels also utilises an approach similar to that employed by the early 20th century mystic G. I. Gurdjieff in his work All and Everything. Earlier works of "inner space" fiction like Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) and Memoirs of a Survivor (1974) also connect to this theme. Lessing's interest had turned to Sufism after coming to the realisation that Marxism ignored spiritual matters, leaving her disillusioned.
Lessing's novel The Golden Notebook is considered a feminist classic by some scholars[who?], 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, the daughter of the modernist poet and publisher John Rodker.
Lessing does not like the idea of being pigeonholed as a feminist author. When asked why, she explained:
What the feminists want of me is something they haven't examined because it comes from religion. They want me to bear witness. What they would really like me to say is, 'Ha, sisters, I stand with you side by side in your struggle toward the golden dawn where all those beastly men are no more.' Do they really want people to make oversimplified statements about men and women? In fact, they do. I've come with great regret to this conclusion.
Doris Lessing Society 
The Doris Lessing Society is dedicated to supporting the scholarly study of Lessing’s work. The formal structure of the Society dates from January 1977, when the first issue of the Doris Lessing Newsletter was published. In Spring, 2002 the Newsletter became the academic journal, Doris Lessing Studies. The Society also organizes panels at the Modern Languages Association (MLA) annual Conventions and has held two international conferences in New Orleans in 2004 and Leeds in 2007. 
Lessing's largest literary archive is held by the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, at the University of Texas at 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, hold smaller collections.
- Somerset Maugham Award (1954)
- Prix Médicis étranger (1976)
- Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1981)
- Shakespeare-Preis der Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F. V. S., Hamburg (1982)
- WH Smith Literary Award (1986)
- Palermo Prize (1987)
- Premio Internazionale Mondello (1987)
- Premio Grinzane Cavour (1989)
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography (1995)
- Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1995)
- Premi Internacional Catalunya (1999)
- Order of the Companions of Honour (1999)
- Companion of Literature of the Royal Society of Literature (2000)
- David Cohen Prize (2001)
- Premio Príncipe de Asturias (2001)
- S.T. Dupont Golden PEN Award (2002)
- Nobel Prize in Literature (2007)
List of works 
See also 
- "NobelPrize.org". Retrieved 11 October 2007.
- Crown, Sarah.Doris Lessing wins Nobel prize.. The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2007.
- Editors at BBC. Author Lessing wins Nobel honour. BBC News. Retrieved on 12 October 2007.
- Marchand, Philip. Doris Lessing oldest to win literature award. Toronto Star. Retrieved on 13 October 2007.
- (5 January 2008). The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. The Times. Retrieved on 25 April 2011.
- Hazelton, Lesley (11 October 2007). "`Golden Notebook' Author Lessing Wins Nobel Prize". Bloomberg. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
- Klein, Carole. "Doris Lessing". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
- "Doris Lessing". kirjasto.sci.fi. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
- Hazelton, Lesley (25 July 1982). "Doris Lessing on Feminism, Communism and 'Space Fiction'". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
- "Author Lessing wins Nobel honour". BBC News. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
- "Biography". A Reader's Guide to The Golden Notebook & Under My Skin. HarperCollins. 1995. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
- Carol Simpson Stern. Doris Lessing Biography. biography.jrank.org. Retrieved on 11 October 2007.
- "Brief Chronology". A Home for the Highland Cattle & The Antheap. Broadview Press. 2003. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
- Lowering the Bar. When bad mothers give us hope. Newsweek article 6 May 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
- Billinghurst, Kevin (11 October 2007). "British Author Doris Lessing Wins Nobel Prize for Literature". Voices of America. Retrieved 15 October 2007.
- "The Diary of a Good Neighbour by Doris Lessing". Dorislessing.org. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- Hanft, Adam. When Doris Lessing Became Jane Somers and Tricked the Publishing World (And Possibly Herself In the Process). Huffington Post. Retrieved on 11 October 2007.
- Flood, Alison (2008-10-22). "Doris Lessing donates revelatory letters to university". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
- "Doris Lessing interview" (Audio). BBC Radio. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
- "Companions of Literature list". Archived from the original on 7 July 2007. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
- Rich, Motoko and Lyall, Sarah. Doris Lessing Wins Nobel Prize in Literature. The New York Times. Retrieved on 11 October 2007.
- British Author, Doris Lessing, bags 2007 Nobel Literature Prize
- Wilkes, David. British author, 87, wins Nobel while out shopping. Daily Mail. Retrieved on 16 October 2007.
- Lessing was the third oldest person to be awarded a Nobel Prize. Leonid Hurwicz was 90 when he was awarded the 2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 2007. Raymond Davis Jr., also 87 when he won the 2002 Physics Prize, is 5 days older than Lessing.
- Pierre-Henry Deshayes. Doris Lessing wins Nobel Literature Prize. Herald Sun. Retrieved on 16 October 2007.
- Reynolds, Nigel. Doris Lessing wins Nobel prize for literature. The Telegraph. Retrieved on 15 October 2007.
- Lessing's Legacy Of Political Literature
- Hinckley, David. Doris Lessing wins Nobel Prize for Literature. New York Daily News. Retrieved on 15 October 2007.
- "Lessing: Nobel win a 'disaster'". BBC News. 11 May 2008. Retrieved 11 May 2008.
- Lessing, Doris. "On the Death of Idries Shah (excerpt from Shah's obituary in the London The Daily Telegraph)". dorislessing.org. Retrieved 3 October 2008.
- Leonard, John (7 February 1982). "The Spacing Out of Doris Lessing". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 October 2008.
- Doris Lessing: Hot Dawns, interview by Harvey Blume in Boston Book Review
- "Guest of Honor Speech", in Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches, edited by Mike Resnick and Joe Siclari (Deerfield, IL: ISFIC Press, 2006), p. 192.
- Lessing's Early and Transitional Novels: The Beginnings of a Sense of Selfhood. Retrieved 17 October 2007.
- Offical website
- "Harry Ransom Center Holds Archive of Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing". hrc.utexas.edu. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
- "Doris Lessing manuscripts". lib.utulsa.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2007.
- [dead link]
- "Golden Pen Award, official website". English PEN. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
Further reading 
- Fahim, Shadia S. (1995). Doris Lessing: Sufi Equilibrium and the Form of the Novel. Basingstoke, UK/New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan/St. Martins Press. ISBN 0-312-10293-3.
- Galin, Müge (1997). Between East and West: Sufism in the Novels of Doris Lessing. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-3383-8.
- Raschke, Debrah; Sternberg Perrakis, Phyllis; Singer, Sandra (2010). Doris Lessing: Interrogating the Times. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8142-1136-6.
- Ridout, Alice (2010). Contemporary Women Writers Look Back: From Irony to Nostalgia. London: Continuum International Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4411-3023-5.
- Ridout, Alice; Watkins, Susan (2009). Doris Lessing: Border Crossings. London: Continuum International Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4411-0416-8.
- Skille, Nan Bentzen (1977). Fragmentation and Integration. A Critical Study of Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook. University of Bergen.
- Watkins, Susan (2010). Doris Lessing. Manchester UP. ISBN 978-0-7190-7481-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Doris Lessing|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Doris Lessing|
|Wikinews has related news:|
- Doris Lessing homepage created by Jan Hanford
- Doris Lessing at the Open Directory Project
- "The shadow of the fifth": patterns of exclusion in Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child (Anne-Laure Brevet)
- Doris Lessing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Doris Lessing at Contemporary Writers
- Lessing Nobel Prize Lecture
- Doris Lessing tells her life story (video)
- Joyce Carol Oates on Doris Lessing
- Thomas Frick (Spring 1988). "Doris Lessing, The Art of Fiction No. 102". The Paris Review.
- Doris Lessing's papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin
- Doris Lessing Archive, University of East Anglia
- University of Tulsa McFarlin Library's inventory of Doris Lessing manuscripts housed in Special Collections
- Doris Lessing Page at Guardian Unlimited
- Articles by Doris Lessing on the 5th Estate blog