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British Author Doris Lessing Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

In Stockholm, the Swedish Academy has chosen the British author Doris Lessing for the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. Kevin Billinghurst is in the Swedish capital.

The selection of Doris Lessing for a Nobel was popular among the hundreds of journalists gathered for the announcement in Stockholm.

"The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2007 is awarded to the English writer Doris Lessing, that epicist of the female experience....."

Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Horace Engdahl said with skepticism, fire and visionary power Lessing has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny.

Doris Lessing was born in 1919 in Persia - modern-day Iran - to British parents, moving as a child with her family to southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where she stayed in school only to the age of 14.

A year after moving to London, she published her first novel in 1950. The Grass is Singing examines unbridgeable racial conflict in colonial Africa through the eyes of a white farmer's wife and her black servant.

A member of the British Communist Party during the 1950s and a campaigner against nuclear arms and South African apartheid, Lessing was for years banned from that country and from Rhodesia.

Her literary breakthrough came in 1962 with publication of The Golden Notebook, seen by many, though not necessarily Lessing, as a pioneering work of modern feminism. A disjointed study of the mind of the main character, Anna Wulf, the novel explores her thoughts about Africa, politics and communism, relationships with men and sex, and Jungian analysis and dream interpretation.

Lessing's themes shifted to psychology in her works from the 1960s, and by the 1970s she was fascinated with the Islamic mystic tradition of Sufism. Her turn toward science fiction with the Canopus series in the early 1980s was not warmly received by traditionalist critics, but she has continued to win new readers and numerous literary awards, including the David Cohen British Literary Prize and the Companion of Honour from the Royal Society of Literature, both in 2001.

Following the announcement, the Horace Engdahl told VOA why he was personally so pleased with Lessing's selection.

"She is one of the truly great writers - of novels, short stories, fiction and non-fiction," Engdahl said. "She is one of the few writers who have had the courage to uphold the principle of equality between the male and female experience, and she has given the impulse to numbers of other women writers. And she is really the mother of a school that is one of the most important in our contemporary literature."

At 87, Doris lessing is the oldest Nobel Literature laureate since the first prizes were awarded in 1901. Each Nobel Prize is this year accompanied by a check for approximately $1.4 million.