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Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing at 2006
Doris Lessing at 2006
Born (1919-10-22)22 October 1919
Kermanshah, Persia (Iran)
Died 17 November 2013(2013-11-17) (aged 94)
London, England
Occupation Writer
Nationality  British
Literary movement Feminism, Modernism, Science fiction

Doris Lessing (Doris May Tayler, 22 October 1919 – 17 November 2013) was a British writer. In 2007, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Reporters told Doris that she had won the Nobel prize and they asked her "Are you not surprised?". She said she had already "won every other European literature prize" so winning prizes was normal.

Early life

Lessing was born in Iran on 22 October 1919. Her parents were both English. They met at the Royal Free Hospital. Her father, Captain Alfred Tayler, was a patient because he had lost his leg in World War I. Her mother, Emily Maude Tayler (maiden name McVeagh), was a nurse.

Alfred Tayler and his wife moved to Kermanshah, Iran. He started a job there as a clerk for the Imperial Bank of Persia. Doris was born here in 1919. Later, the family moved to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) in 1925 to farm maize.

Lessing studied at the Dominican Convent High School in Salisbury (now Harare). It was a Roman Catholic convent school for girls. She left school aged 14, and taught herself after that. She left home at 15 and worked as a nursemaid. She started reading about politics and sociology and began writing around this time. In 1937, Lessing moved to Salisbury to work as a telephone operator. She soon married her first husband, Frank Wisdom. They had two children (John and Jean), before the marriage ended in 1943. She took care of future author Jenny Diski after her parents abused her. Diski lived with Lessing for four years in London.

After her divorce, Lessing became more involved with members of the Left Book Club. She had joined this communist book club the year before. She met her second husband, Gottfried Lessing there. They married soon after she joined the group, and had a child named Peter. This marriage ended in divorce in 1949. Gottfried Lessing later became the East German ambassador to Uganda. He was murdered in the 1979 rebellion against Idi Amin Dada.

She went to London to pursue her writing career and communist ideals. Lessing left two young children with their father in South Africa. Peter, from her second marriage, went with her. She later said that she thought she had no choice at that time. She felt she had done the best she could and that she was not the best person to raise the children. She would have been very frustrated like her mother had been because it was diificult for an intelligent woman to spend all of her time with young children.


The largest collection of Lessing's writing is at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, at the University of Texas at Austin. There are 45 boxes of Lessing's materials at the Ransom Center that contain nearly all of her available manuscripts and typescripts up to 1999. Lessing kept none of the originals of her early manuscripts. Other institutions, including the McFarlin Library at the University of Tulsa, hold smaller collections.


During the late 1990s, Lessing suffered a stroke which stopped her from travelling during her later years and focused her mind on death. Lessing died on 17 November 2013 at her home in London, aged 94.


  • Somerset Maugham Award (1954)
  • Prix Médicis étranger (1976)
  • Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1981)
  • Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F. V. S., Hamburg (1982)
  • W. H. Smith Literary Award (1986)
  • Palermo Prize (1987)
  • Premio Internazionale Mondello (1987)
  • Premio Grinzane Cavour (1989)
  • James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography (1995)
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1995)
  • Premi Internacional Catalunya (1999)
  • Order of the Companions of Honour (1999)
  • Companion of Literature of the Royal Society of Literature (2000)
  • David Cohen Prize (2001)
  • Premio Príncipe de Asturias (2001)
  • S.T. Dupont Golden PEN Award (2002)
  • Nobel Prize in Literature (2007)


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