British writer Doris Lessing on Thursday won the 2007 Nobel Prize for literature for five decades of epic novels that covered feminism, politics as well her youth in Africa.
Lessing, who will be 88 next week, is only the 11th woman to have won the prize since it was first awarded in 1901 and only the third since 1996. The Swedish Academy described Lessing as “that epicist of the female experience who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny”.
“We are absolutely delighted because it is so well deserved.,” Jonathan Clowes, Lessing’s agent, said. “She doesn’t know yet... she’s out shopping and we are trying to get in touch with her before she discovers it in the news.”
Lessing, whose work has covered a multitude of topics, has over the years been mentioned as a possible Nobel laureate but she was not seen among the frontrunners this year. Although ‘The Golden Notebook’, her best known work, established her as a feminist icon back in 1962, Lessing has consistently refused the label and said her writing does not play a directly political role.
Born Doris May Taylor in Khermanshah, in what is now Iran, on 22 October 1919, Lessing spent her formative years on a farm in Southern Rhodesia, what is now Zimbabwe, where her British parents moved in 1925. It was, she later reflected, a “hellishly lonely” upbringing. In 1939, Lessing married Frank Wisdom, by whom she had two children before their divorce in 1943.
She then married a German political activist called Gottfried Lessing, but divorced again in 1949, when she fled to Britain with her young son and the manuscript of her first novel, ‘The Grass Is Singing’.