Doris Lessing: British Nobel Laureate author dies, aged 94

The British Nobel Laureate author, who wrote The Golden Notebook and The Grass is Singing, had a writing career spanning more than 60 years

Doris Lessing, the Nobel Laureate author of The Golden Notebook and The Grass is Singing, has died aged 94.

Largely self-educated and from a modest British-colonial upbringing, Lessing went on to become one of the greatest British writers of the last century.

Beginning with a selection of short stories published in 1948 and ending with her final book Alfred and Emily (2008), Lessing wrote on the defence of freedom, the developing world, women’s rights and countless other themes across more than 50 works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Her publisher, HarperCollins, said she died peacefully early Sunday.

Born Doris May Tayler to British parents in what was then Persia, on 22 October 1919, Lessing moved with her family to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), before briefly attending Roman Catholic boarding school in the capital, Salisbury.

Lessing spent many of her formative years in southern Africa, dropping out of school at 13 and fleeing from home and a turbulent relationship with her mother at the age of 15.

Eventually moving to Salisbury in 1937, she married and had two children with Frank Wisdom. She quickly became disillusioned the life she saw playing out before her, left Wisdom and her family, and instead became drawn to the like-minded members of a Communist group called the Left Book Club.

There she met Gottfried Lessing, whom she married and with whom she had a son. In the post-war years Lessing again became restless, and in 1949 she moved to London with her son. That year she also published her first novel, The Grass is Singing, and began writing professionally.

From 1951 to 1959 Lessing wrote the Children of Violence sequence, five relatively conventional novels of experience. In 1962 she penned her seminal work, The Golden Notebook, often referred to as “a feminist bible” – though that is a description which, she says, “never occurred to me as I was writing”.

In 1995, Lessing received an Honorary Degree from Harvard University, and in 2001 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Literature, one of Spain’s highest distinctions.

In the December 1999 Honours List Lessing was appointed a Companion of Honour. She turned down the offer of becoming a Dame of the British Empire because, she said, there is no British Empire – adding that it was “a bit pantomimey”.

In 2005, Lessing was shortlisted for the first Man Booker International Prize. In 2007, she received the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Swedish Academy praised Lessing for her “skepticism, fire and visionary power”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager

£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP / MySQL / HTML / CSS

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this digital ...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Cashier

£16500 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity exists ...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935