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Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing was born on 22nd of October 1919 in a British family as Doris May Taylor in Kermanshah, Persia (now Iran). Her father, Captain Alfred Tayler, previously an army man, was a clerk in a bank (Imperial Bank of Persia) while her mother, Emily Maude Tayler, was a nursemaid. The family moved to Zimbabwe in the hope of increasing their income through maize farming. But unfortunately this reaped no benefits for the Taylers.

Doris Lessing’s mother was a strict woman and in the anticipation of raising a prim and proper daughter, enforced a lot of rules and regulations in the house. Lessing was sent to a convent school and then later to an all girls high school in the capital of Salisbury. Lessing, however, dropped out of school by the age of thirteen and thereafter started self educating herself. She left her home two years later in the hope of an independent life away from her mother’s stern tenet. She employed as a nursemaid where she involved herself in reading various topics such as politics and sociology. Later she moved to Salisbury and started working as a telephone operator. It was then when she met and then married her first husband, Frank Wisdom with whom she also had two children. She had begun writing by this time; a passion that would soon become her life long career.

After her divorce in 1943 Lessing joined a communist book club named ‘Left Book Club’. Gottfried Lessing was a main member of this group who Lessing married later on. They had a son, Peter, who remained with Lessing after her second divorce in 1949. She moved to London where she began her professional career and published her first novel ‘The Grass Is Singing’. Although a more notable work by Lessing was published in 1962 in her novel ‘The Golden Notebook’. She also wrote two novels using a pseudonym ‘Jane Somers’. Her purpose was to reveal the hardships faced by new authors in their efforts to get their work printed. ‘The Diary of a Good Neighbor’ and ‘If the Old Could’ were eventually published in England and the United States in 1983 and 1984. The following years also saw some good novels by Lessing such as ‘The Good Terrorist’ (1985), ‘Under my Skin’ (1994), ‘Walking in the Shade’ (1997), and ‘The Sweetest Dream’ (2001).

Lessing’s books were mainly fictional and can be sub-categorized in three diverse themes; The Communist theme which lasted from 1944 to 1956. The Psychological Theme started from 1956 to 1969 and then Sufism, to which she was introduced to by ‘Idries Shah’, who was a good friend and teacher.

Doris Lessing has won over fifteen awards for her contribution to the English Literature. These include the Somerset Maugham Award (1954), the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1995), Order of the Companions of Honor (1999), the David Cohen Prize (2001), S.T Dupont Golden PEN Award (2002) and the most honorable ‘Nobel Prize’ in 2007. She also received an honorary degree from Harvard University in 1995. Her latest book is called ‘Alfred and Family’. Lessing has announced this book to be her last and final work.

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