Doris Lessing dies

The literary world is paying tribute to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing, who has died aged 94.

The British author produced more than 60 works including short stories, poetry and operas.

Her publisher said Lessing – who was known as a feminist, communist and social commentator over many decades – died peacefully.

In 2007 she became only the 11th woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, with judges acknowledging her scepticism, fire and visionary power.

Her 1962 novel The Golden Notebook has been praised as a feminist bible, although she rejected the label.

“I don’t think my writing can be described as either feminist or non-feminist. I’ve written about all kinds of men and women,” she once said.

“Look, I have never ever in my life met a woman who is not a feminist.”

Works had a recurring theme of trapped women

The acclaimed author was born in what is now Iran and grew up on a farm in white-ruled Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

The farm was not a success, and in later years Lessing spoke of her parents’ injuries, seen and unseen from World War I.

“They were badly damaged by World War I, but very badly. They never got over it,” she said.

The recurring theme in her writing of the plight of women was shaped by her mother’s sense of being trapped.

“She was a woman of very great ability and talent, which once she’d married my father and landed in Africa she had nothing to use it on except her children,” she said.

“She was a disastrous mother. I can’t imagine what she would say if she heard me saying that.”

After her own early first marriage, producing two children, she married Gottfried Lessing, a German communist refugee.

She had another child before that marriage ended.

Lessing moved to England, becoming a professional writer, and while she abandoned communism she stayed politically outspoken.

‘A great world intellect’

Lessing’s prodigious output included short stories, poetry, science fiction – what she called “inner space fiction” – and operas.

“She was a great world intellect, but she had no formal intellectual upbringing and that made her curious, curious, curious,” said Nick Pearson, an editor who worked with Lessing over the past decade.

“One sees that in the way she works. She wrote across a variety of genres: conventional novels, science fiction novels. She wrote a libretto. A book about cats once.”

Lessing’s own assessment of her work was typically idiosyncratic.

“I’ve written some rather good short stories and I’ve written one or two good books,” she once said.

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