Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War , was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia, her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promiose of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Like many other women from southern Africa she did not graduate from high school, but she was to make herself into a self-educated intellectual.
After moving to Britain in the 1930's, she was drawn to the like-minded members of the Left Book Club, and she joined the Communist Party. However, during the postwar years, she became increasingly diillusioned with the Communist movement, which she left altogether in 1954. By 1949, she had moved and settled in London with her young son. Her first published novel, The Grass is Singing was published in the same year, the start of a a very prolific output.
Many of her brilliant literary works take in themes in defence of freedom, third world causes and the developing world, and often from a biographical slant, her prose marked by its vividness and effectiveness. Her range was vast, not afraid to experiment with form, even turning her hand at science fiction, engaging between idealism and reality. Alternative ways of seeing and living were also themes that ran through her work, (she herlself explore sufi mysticism in the 1960's), and the exploration of human nature being central to her words, investigating its curses in an attempt to find cures..
Her life was marked with a reputation for being a maverik and outspoken, with a refusal to compromise. Her subversive spirit meant that she pusued truth whilst maintaining her individual tongue.
In recognition of her achievement she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007, at the age of 88, becomming the oldest woman to do so, and only the 11th woman ever to recieve the prize.
This great writer was also a reluctant feminist, who was first and foremost a storyteller, loyal to the power of the written word, and her belief in it never wavered.
She "saw the Soviet Empire, Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, the British Empire, the White Supremacy of South Afica and the Southern Rhodesia." her words capturing the spirit of her time, and now as they shimmer, the spirit of ours.
Doris Lessing R.I.P
' But for a while the dance went on-
That is how it seems to me now
Slow forms moving calm through
Pools of light like gold net on the floor.
It might have gone on, dream-like, forever.
- from Fable, 1959
' Very few people care about freedom, about liberty, about the truth, very few.
Very few people have guts on which a real democracy has to depend. Without people with that sort of guts a free society dies, or cannot be born'
-Doris Lessing - The Golden Notebook
' Whatever you're meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.'
Doris Lessing on Traditional Storytelling
from a 1987 BBC interview:-
Doris Lessing reads and discusses her work