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Doris Lessing – the death of a literary icon

On 17th November 2013, the world was shocked by the news of Doris Lessing’s death aged 94. The author’s life had been more varied than most of us could dream.

Lessing was born in Persia (modern day Iran) in 1919, and moved with her family to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1925. Leaving school at 15 to become a nursemaid, she began writing and educating herself in politics and sociology, which had a profound impact on her work. Lessing fled to London in 1949 following her divorce from her second husband, German Communist Gottfried Lessing. 1950 saw the publication of her acclaimed first novel The Grass Is Singing, a study of racial politics of southern Africa. Lessing’s 1962 novel The Golden Notebook, which examines male-female relations, mental illness and societal breakdown, is deemed her breakthrough piece. Although her work was heralded as a feminist masterpiece, Lessing distanced herself from the formal movement.

Having already received numerous accolades, Lessing was awarded the crown of them all, the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 2007. Aged 88, she was the oldest recipient of the prize and only the 11th woman to have won it. Although initially thrilled, Lessing later stated that winning the Nobel Prize had been a “bloody disaster” as she never had time to write anymore and thought she never would again. Published in 2008, her last book, Alfred and Emily, explored how Lessing’s parents’ lives might have unfolded if not for the First World War.

Doris Lessing will be remembered for pushing the boundaries in every aspect of her life: as a writer, a woman, and a mother. She truly was the ultimate maverick of her time.

Tags: Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize for Literature, Obituary, The Golden Notebook

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