Doris May Lessing, 1919 - 2013

portrait of Doris Lessing
Cologne Literature Festival, photo by Elke Wetzig (12 March 2006)

Born: 22 October 1919, Kermanshah, Persia (now Bakhtaran, Iran)
Died: 17 November 2013, London, England, UK

Born Doris May Tayler, her father was bank clerk at Teheran for a couple of years, the family ten traveled through Russia and back to England for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition. Here her father was convinced that he could make good money growing maize (what Americans call sweet corn) in South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He bought a thousand acres there and the family moved in 1925. Doris went to the Dominican Convent High School at Salisbury (now Harare) through age 14, one day she was upset by the quality of the teaching and simply walked away. She worked as a nursemaid and telephone operator before her first marriage. She was involved in leftist politics, after having two kids and a divorce she joined a Communist book club and met her second husband, Gottfried Lessing. (Herr Lessing was later East German ambassador to Uganda and was murdered during the 1973 revolt against Idi Amin Dada.) By 1949 she had another child, another divorce, and her opposition to apartheid and nuclear arms led to her being banned from both Rhodesia and South Africa. She decamped for London and the start of her writing career in 1949. She wrote seventeen novels, a five-volume science fiction series, four books about cats, and quite a bit more. She had received all of the European awards for writing before she went to the grocers one day in October 2007, when she returned she found her porch surrounded by reporters looking for her comments on winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was more gracious later, but that day she said, "I can't say I'm overwhelmed with surprise. I'm 88 years old and they can't give the Nobel to someone who's dead, so I think they were probably thinking they'd probably better give it to me now before I've popped off." Lessing had a stroke in 1990 and stopped traveling, she died at her London home, no cause of death was released.

Biography from Wikipedia and New York Times obituary

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