Thursday, October 11, 2007

Go, Doris!

I have two of her books sitting in my shelves right now. I think this determines what I'll be reading next (after getting weepy while reading Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner, right after watching the second episode of Private Practice. And not because I have any desire to have any babies of my own, let me make that clear. But because dying babies have to be the saddest subject on Earth.)

Doris Lessing wins Nobel for literature


English writer Doris Lessing, who ended her formal schooling at age 13 and went on to write novels that explored relationships between women and society and interracial dynamics, won the 2007 Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday.

Lessing, who turns 88 in just over a week, was born to British parents who were living in what at the time was Persia. The family later moved to what is now Zimbabwe, where she spent her childhood and adolescent years.

She made her debut with "The Grass Is Singing" in 1950. Her other works include the semi-autobiographical "Children Of Violence" series, set in Africa and England.

"We are absolutely delighted and it's very well deserved," said Lessing's agent, Jonathan Clowes. He added Lessing was out shopping and may not yet know that she had won the prize.

Her breakthrough was "The Golden Notebook," in 1962, the Swedish Academy said.

"The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that inform the 20th-century view of the male-female relationship," the academy said in its citation announcing the prize.

Other important novels of Lessing's include "The Summer Before Dark" in 1973 and "The Fifth Child" in 1988.

Lessing is the second British writer to win the prize in three years. In 2005, Harold Pinter received the award. Last year, the academy gave the prize to Turkey's Orhan Pamuk.

A seasoned traveler of the world, Lessing has known many homes from what is today known as Iran, to Zimbabwe to South Africa and London.

"When you look at my life, you can go back to the late 1930s," she told The Associated Press in an interview last year. "What I saw was, first of all, Hitler, he was going to live forever. Mussolini was in for 10,000 years. You had the Soviet Union, which was, by definition, going to last forever. There was the British empire — nobody imagined it could come to an end. So why should one believe in any kind of permanence?"

Lessing's family moved to a farm in southern Rhodesia in 1925, an experience she described in the first part of her autobiography "Under My Skin" that was released in 1944.

Because of her criticism of the South African regime and its apartheid system, she was prohibited from entering the country between 1956 and 1995. Lessing, who was a member of the British Communist Party in the 1950s, had been active in campaigning against nuclear weapons.

The literature award was the fourth of this year's Nobel Prizes to be announced and one of the most hotly anticipated given the sheer amount of guessing it generated in the weeks leading up to award.

The awards — each worth $1.5 million — will be handed out by Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10.

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