Nobel Women

doris lessing, doris lessing nobel
Martin Cleaver/AP

Happy Birthday, Doris Lessing, Social Commentator and Nobel Prize Winner in Literature

October 22, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
A powerful, politically minded and acerbic Nobel Laureate, Britain's Doris Lessing is a treasured social commentator and novelist who has continued her prolific and award-winning career into her 80s.

Winning the Nobel

In 2007, Doris Lessing, at the age of 89, became the 11th woman to receive the most significant award in world literature, the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel judging committee called her an “epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire, and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny.”

The popular novelist and social commentator, who has won dozens of other prizes, was underwhelmed by the significance of the Nobel. Upon being told by reporters that she won, she replied, “Oh, Christ. It’s been going on now for 30 years, one can get more excited.” She later quipped, “I’ve won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I’m delighted to win them all. … It’s a royal flush.”

Doris Lessing Resources

Explore the life of Doris Lessing with the British Web site Contemporary Writers, which includes an author statement and a list of all the prizes she has won and been nominated for.

The New York Times provides a biography and an archive of the Times’ content related to Lessing, including book reviews, articles, letters to the editor, and op-eds.

A Web site honoring Lessing and her work, created by an avid reader, has more than a dozen free audio excerpts of Lessing being interviewed and reading from her work. There are also a couple of videos of readings.

Celestial Timepiece, an extensive Joyce Carol Oates Web resource, includes Oates’ 1972 essay, “A Visit with Doris Lessing.” Lessing had just published Briefing for a Descent into Hell. She and Oates discuss contemporary thinkers and Oates reflects on meeting Lessing and visiting her home.

Interviews and Lectures

In 2005 Lessing gave a lecture at the art gallery Tate Britain in London, part of a series that discusses writers’ connections to visual culture. She focuses on painting and how visual art has affected her writing.

In a 1997 interview with Salon magazine, Lessing and interviewer Dwight Garner discuss the sexual revolution, political correctness, the Cold War, and the publishing process.

Guardian writer Xan Brooks interviewed Lessing at the Hay literature festival in 2007, where they discussed her most recent book, The Cleft, published this year.

Bill Moyers’ 2003 interview with Lessing sheds light on her writing process, the self-proclaimed “neurotic” quality of needing to write continually, the effect of being a child of World War I, the impact of the sixties, and the buildup to the war in Iraq (which began two months after this interview took place).

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