The London-based Lessing, pictured at left as she prepares to celebrate her 88th birthday on October 22, is a woman of truly transnational renown. Born Doris May Taylor to British parents in Persia, in a city now known as Bakhtaran, Iran, she lived on a farm in Southern Rhodesia -- now Zimbabwe -- till she was sent away for an education. She quit formal schooling at age 14, worked a series of jobs, and had 3 children; each of 2 marriages ended in divorce. On moving to London in 1949, she began her extraordinary writing career.
Among her many books is 1 of my favorites, The Golden Notebook, issued in 1962 (that's a contemporaneous publicity photo of Lessing at right). Of this "breakthrough" work Lessing's Nobel bio states:
The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th-century view of the male-female relationship. It used a more complex narrative technique to reveal how political and emotion conflicts are intertwined. The style levels of differing documents and experiences mix: newspaper cuttings, news items, films, dreams and diaries. Anna Wulf, the main character, has five notebooks for her thoughts about Africa, politics and the communist party, her relationship to men and sex, Jungian analysis and dream interpretation. The disjointed form reflects that of the main character's mind. There is no single perspective from which to capture the entirety of her life experience.
That last sentence likewise fits Lessing, this year's worthy Nobel prizewinner.
(photo credits here and here)