Reading group: which Doris Lessing book should we read in October?


This month marks the centenary of the British-Zimbabwean’s birth, and we’re celebrating her remarkable career. Help us choose a book

On 22 October, it will be 100 years since the birth of Doris Lessing. That’s a good reason to revisit the work of the award winning British-Zimbabwean novelist here on the Reading group. In a career spanning more than 50 years, Lessing wrote dozens of works of fiction and biography, in many different genres and moods, and was shortlisted for – and won – most of the major literary awards in Europe. She won the Nobel prize in literature in 2007, when the Swedish Academy described her as “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”. The word “epicist” means “epic poet”, which possibly fits Lessing in the broader sense of the term, even if the poetry she wrote had a quieter impact than her novels.

At 88, Lessing was the oldest author to receive the honour. She was also one of the most nonplussed. “Oh Christ,” she said when a reporter on her doorstep told her she’d won. On further reflection she said: “I’m sure you’d like some uplifting remarks of some kind … It’s been going on now for 30 years, one can get more excited … I’ve won all the prizes in Europe – every bloody one. I’m delighted to have won them all. The whole lot.”

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