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Doris Lessing


Doris Lessing was born Doris Tayler (note spelling) in Kermanshah in what was then Persia, in 1919. She grew up on a farm in Southern Rhodesia, her family moving there when she was six. Unfortunately, the farm was not financially successful. She left school at the age of thirteen and subsequently educated herself. When she was sixteen, she started work for the telephone company. She later worked for a firm of lawyers and then for the Southern Rhodesian parliament. In 1947 she moved to Cape Town and then, in 1949, to London. In 1939, she married Frank Wisdom. They had two children but they divorced in four years later. In 1945 she married Gottfried Lessing, a German communist, and they had a son, Peter. After they moved to England, Gottfried moved to East Germany, where he eventually became trade commissar. He was killed in Uganda in 1979 while ambassador there. While initially a communist, Lessing soon became disillusioned with it and eventually quit the Party. By his time she had started writing and her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, about white settlers in Rhodesia was successful, not least because it was one of the first works to expose apartheid to the English. With her emphasis on the role of women, consciousness, mysticism (she has been an adherent of Sufism) and various left-wing causes, her writings have been consistently successful and well-received by both critics and the reading public. She won the Nobel Prize in 2007. She died in 2013.

Books about Doris Lessing

Katherine Fishburn: Doris Lessing: Life, Work and Criticism
Carole Klein: Doris Lessing: a Biography
Margaret Moan Rowe: Doris Lessing
Ruth Whittaker: Doris Lessing

Other sites

Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing: A Retrospective
Lessing, Doris
Sept 11 ‘not that terrible’ says Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing warns of ‘inanities’ of internet
Doris Lessing Reflects on World, Change
Doris Lessing’s MI5 file: was she a threat to the state?
Similarities Between Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing
Lay off men, Lessing tells feminists
The Doris Lessing Society
Political Correctness (article by Lessing)


1950 The Grass Is Singing (novel)
1951 This Was the Old Chief’s Country
1952 Martha Quest (novel)
1953 Five: Short Novels (stories)
1954 Proper Marriage (novel)
1956 Retreat to Innocence (novel)
1957 Going Home (memoir)
1957 The Habit of Loving (stories)
1958 A Ripple from the Storm (novel)
1959 Each His Own Wilderness (drama)
1959 Fourteen Poems
1960 In Pursuit of the English: A Documentary (non-fiction)
1962 The Golden Notebook (novel)
1962 Play with a Tiger (drama)
1963 A Man and Two Women (stories)
1964 African Stories (stories)
1965 Landlocked (novel)
1966 The Black Madonna (stories)
1966 Winter in July (stories)
1966 Play with a Tiger (drama)
1967 Particularly Cats (cat tales)
1968 Nine African Stories
1969 The Four-Gated City (novel)
1971 Briefing for a Descent into Hell (novel)
1972 The Story of a Non-Marrying Man and Other Stories (US: The Temptation of Jack Orkney and Other Stories) (stories)
1973 The Summer Before the Dark (novel)
1973 This Was the Old Chief’s Country: Collected African Stories, Volume 1 (stories)
1973 The Sun Between Their Feet: Collected African Stories (stories)
1974 The Memoirs of a Survivor (novel)
1974 A Small Personal Voice (collected essays)
1978 To Room Nineteen: Collected Stories, Volume One (US: Stories (combined with Volume Two)) (stories)
1978 The Temptation of Jack Orkney: Collected Stories Volume Two (US: Stories (combined with Volume One)) (stories)
1979 Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta (novel)
1980 The Marriages between Zones Three, Four, and Five
1981 The Sirian Experiments (novel)
1982 The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (novel)
1983 Documents Relating to the Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire
1983 The Diary of a Good Neighbor (published under the pseudonym Jane Somers) (novel)
1984 If the Old Could (published under the pseudonym Jane Somers) (novel)
1985 The Good Terrorist (novel)
1986 Prisons We Choose to Live Inside (essays)
1987 The Wind Blows Away Our Words (non-fiction)
1988 The Fifth Child (novel)
1989 Particularly Cats and More Cats (cat tales)
1989 The Doris Lessing Reader
1990 Through The Tunnel (stories)
1991 Particularly Cats… and Rufus (cat tales)
1992 London Observed: Stories and Sketches (stories)
1992 The Real Thing: Stories and Sketches (stories)
1992 African Laughter (memoir)
1994 Shadows on the Wall of the Cave (transcript of a talk)
1994 Conversations (interviews)
1994 A Small Personal Voice (essays)
1994 Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949
1995 Playing the Game (graphic novel)
1995 Spies I Have Known and Other Stories (stories)
1996 Love, Again (novel)
1996 The Pit (stories)
1996 Play with a Tiger and Other Plays (drama)
1996 Putting the Questions Differently (interviews)
1997 Walking in the Shade, Volume Two of My Autobiography, 1949 to 1962
1999 Mara and Dann, an Adventure (novel)
2000 Ben, in the World (novel)
2000 The Old Age of El Magnificato (cat tales)
2001 The Sweetest Dream (novel)
2002 On Cats (cat tales)
2003 The Grandmothers (stories)
2005 Time Bites (essays)
2005 The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog (novel)
2006 The Cleft (novel)
2008 Alfred and Emily (novel)
2008 On Not Winning the Nobel Prize (Nobel Prize lecture)

Detailed bibliography