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Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing (born October 22, 1919), British writer, born Doris May Taylor in Persia (Iran).

Her family moved to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe) in 1925, to live a rough life farming maize. Unfortunately, the thousand acres of bush failed to yield wealth, thwarting her mother's desire to live the life of a Victorian in "savage lands".

Despite this difficult and unhappy childhood, Lessing's writings about life in British Africa are filled with a compassion for both the sterile lives of the British colonists and the plight of the indigenous inhabitants.

Her first novel, The Grass is Singing, was published in 1949.

In 2001 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Literature for her works in defense of freedom and Third World causes. She also received the David Cohen British Literature Prize.

Literary Style

Lessings fiction is commonly divided into three distinct phases: The Communist theme 1944-1956 when she was writing radically on social issues, The psychological theme 1956-1969 and after that The Sufi theme which was explored in the Canopus series (see below). After the sufist themas Lessing has worked in all three areas.

Her novel The Golden Notebook is considered a feminst classic among many scholars, but notably not by the author herself. This novel also allegedly made Lessing a candidate for the nobel prize, but her later science fiction books (The Canopus series) may have discredited her, so that she was removed from the list. Lessing does not like the idea of being recognized as a feminist author. When asked why, Lessing replies:

What the feminists want of me is something they haven't examined because it comes from religion. They want me to bear witness. What they would really like me to say is, 'Ha, sisters, I stand with you side by side in your struggle toward the golden dawn where all those beastly men are no more.' Do they really want people to make oversimplified statements about men and women? In fact, they do. I've come with great regret to this conclusion.

When asked about which of her books she considers most important, Lessing choose the Canopus in Argos series. These books are based partly on sufi concepts, to which Lessing was introduced by Idries Shah. Earlier works of "inner space" fiction like Briefing for a Descent into Hell and Memoirs of a Survivor also connects to this theme.

Bibliography

  • The Grass Is Singing (1949)
  • The Children of Violence Series (1951-1959):
    • Martha Quest
    • A Proper Marriage
    • A Ripple from the Storm
    • Landlocked
    • The Four-Gated City
  • The Summer Before the Dark
  • The Golden Notebook (1962)
  • The Temptation of Jack Orkney and other stories
  • A Small Personal Voice (Essays)
  • Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971)
  • Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
  • The Canopus in Argos: Archives Series (1979-1983)
    • Shikasta
    • The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five
    • The Sirian Experiments
    • The Making of the Representative from Planet 8
    • Documents Relating to the Sentimental Agents
  • Stories (collection)
  • Under the pseudonym Jane Somers:
    • The Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983)
    • If the Old Could... (1984)
  • The Good Terrorist (1985)
  • The Fifth Child (1988)
  • Lessings autobiography:
    • Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949 (1995)
    • Walking in the Shade: Volume Two of My Autobiography 1949 to 1962 (1997)
  • Love, Again (1996)
  • Mara and Dann (1999)
  • Ben, in the World (a sequel to The Fifth Child) (2000)
  • The Sweetest Dream (2002)

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