Skip navigation

Doris Lessing wins Nobel for literature

The Associated Press

STOCKHOLM — British writer Doris Lessing has won the 2007 Nobel Prize in literature, the Swedish Academy said Thursday, citing her “skepticism, fire and visionary power” in dozens of works, notably her classic The Golden Notebook.

Ms. Lessing, who at 87 is the oldest person to win the Nobel Literature prize, could not be reached to be told of her award, the academy's permanent secretary Horace Engdahl told The Associated Press. Her agent, Jonathan Clowes, said she was out shopping in London.

“We are absolutely delighted and it's very well-deserved,” Mr. Clowes said.

Ms. Lessing was born to British parents who were living in what is now Iran. The family later moved to Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe. She dropped out of school at age 13.

She made her debut with The Grass Is Singing in 1950. Her other works include the semiautobiographical Children Of Violence series, largely set in Africa.

Her breakthrough was the 1962 Golden Notebook, the Swedish Academy said.

“The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work, and it belongs to the handful of books that inform the 20th-century view of the male-female relationship,” the academy said in its citation announcing the prize.

Her other important novels of include The Summer Before Dark in 1973 and The Fifth Child in 1988.

Ms. Lessing is the second British writer to win the prize in three years. In 2005, Harold Pinter received the award. Last year, the academy gave the prize to Turkey's Orhan Pamuk.

“When you look at my life, you can go back to the late 1930s,” she told The Associated Press in an interview last year. “What I saw was, first of all, Hitler, he was going to live forever. Mussolini was in for 10,000 years. You had the Soviet Union, which was, by definition, going to last forever. There was the British empire – nobody imagined it could come to an end. So why should one believe in any kind of permanence?”

Ms. Lessing's family moved to a farm in southern Rhodesia in 1925, an experience she described in the first part of her autobiography Under My Skin that was released in 1944.

Because of her criticism of the South African regime and its apartheid system, she was prohibited from entering the country between 1956 and 1995. Ms. Lessing, who was a member of the British Communist Party in the 1950s, had been active in campaigning against nuclear weapons.

The literature award was the fourth of this year's Nobel Prizes to be announced and one of the most hotly anticipated, given the sheer amount of guessing it generated in the weeks leading up to award.

On Wednesday, Gerhard Ertl of Germany won the prize in chemistry for studies of chemical reactions on solid surfaces, which are key to understanding such questions as why the ozone layer is thinning.

On Tuesday, France's Albert Fert and Germany's Peter Gruenberg won the physics award for discovering a phenomenon that lets computers and digital music players store reams of data on ever-shrinking hard disks.

On Monday, Americans Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies and Briton Sir Martin Evans, won the prize in medicine for groundbreaking discoveries that led to a powerful technique for manipulating mouse genes.

Prizes for peace and economics will be announced through Oct. 15.

The awards – each worth 10-million Swedish kroner, ($1.5-million Canadian) – will be handed out by Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10.

Winners in literature since 1960
2007 Doris Lessing, Britain.
2006 Orhan Pamuk, Turkey.
2005 Harold Pinter, Britain.
2004 Elfriede Jelinek, Austria.
2003 J.M. Coetzee, South Africa.
2002 Imre Kertesz, Hungary.
2001 V.S. Naipaul, Trinidad-born Briton.
2000 Gao Xingjian, Chinese-born French.
1999 Guenter Grass, Germany.
1998 Jose Saramago, Portugal.
1997 Dario Fo, Italy.
1996 Wislawa Szymborska, Poland.
1995 Seamus Heaney, Ireland.
1994 Kenzaburo Oe, Japan.
1993 Toni Morrison, United States.
1992 Derek Walcott, St. Lucia.
1991 Nadine Gordimer, South Africa.
1990 Octavio Paz, Mexico.
1989 Camilo Jose Cela, Spain.
1988 Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt.
1987 Joseph Brodsky, Russian-born American.
1986 Wole Soyinka, Nigeria.
1985 Claude Simon, France.
1984 Jaroslav Seifert, Czechoslovakia.
1983 William Golding, Britain.
1982 Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia.
1981 Elias Canetti, Bulgarian-born Briton.
1980 Czeslaw Milosz, Polish-born American.
1979 Odysseus Elytis, Greece.
1978 Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-born American.
1977 Vicente Aleixandre, Spain.
1976 Saul Bellow, Canadian-born American.
1975 Eugenio Montale, Italy.
1974 Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, Sweden.
1973 Patrick White, British-born Australian.
1972 Heinrich Boell, West Germany.
1971 Pablo Neruda, Chile.
1970 Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russia.
1969 Samuel Beckett, Ireland.
1968 Yasunari Kawabata, Japan.
1967 Miguel A. Asturias, Guatemala.
1966 Shmuel Y. Agnon, Polish-born Israeli, and Nelly Sachs, German-born Swede.
1965 Mikhail Sholokhov, Russia.
1964 Jean-Paul Sartre, France (declined award).
1963 Giorgos Seferis, Turkish-born Greek.
1962 John Steinbeck, United States.
1961 Ivo Andric, Yugoslavia.
1960 Saint-John Perse, Guadeloupe-born French.

Recommend this article? 155 votes

Back to top