British Writer Lessing Wins Nobel Prize for Literature
DEBORAH AMOS, Host:
LYNN NEARY: Good morning. Good to be here.
AMOS: Not even the London bookies had her on the list. Was anybody expecting that Doris Lessing would win?
NEARY: Well, you know, every year there is a lot of speculation leading up to the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and frequently that speculation is wrong, and once again it was wrong. In fact, as I was reading reports over the last few days, I didn't see Doris Lessing's name mentioned at all.
AMOS: racism, feminism, communism, terrorism, the environment. These are the kind of books that really dig into the problems at the core of society and culture and these are the kinds of works that the Nobel committee does like to recognize.
AMOS: And she's had a remarkable long career. She's 87 years old.
NEARY: It's amazing.
AMOS: Tell us about her.
NEARY: Her debut novel in 1950, "The Grass Is Singing," examines the relationship between a white farmer's wife and a black servant in Rhodesia. And after it came out, reviewers in Britain called her the finest new novelist since World War II. Remember this was in 1950 - just to show you how long a career she has had in writing. She wrote that novel after moving to London with her son from her second marriage but she left behind two children in Rhodesia from her first marriage and that was a decision which much later in life she would say she regretted.
AMOS: The book that a whole generation knows is "The Golden Notebook."
AMOS: Tell us something about that one because that's the one that's going to ring bells for people when they hear about this award.
NEARY: Lessing said she split the book into four parts in order to express a split person. And, as we mention, this was a book that many young women considered a must-read when feminism first came on the scene.
AMOS: And she tackles, you know, current events as well with "The Good Terrorist." I mean, her body of work takes in so many topics.
NEARY: And even at a certain point she dipped into science fiction works, one "The Canopus in Argos" archive series in the '70s and '80s. She also wrote the libretto for a Philip Glass opera based on her book "The Making of the Representative for Planet 8." A pretty remarkable woman, a pretty remarkable writer, I think.
AMOS: Thank you very much. NPR's Lynn Neary.
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