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Doris Lessing - Author

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Doris Lessing, novelist, essayist and short story writer, was born in 1919, in what was then Persia1, of British parents. She grew up on a small farm in Southern Rhodesia2 and moved to the UK in 1949 after two unsuccessful marriages.

Early Novels

Her earlier novels (The Grass is Singing, Martha Quest, and A Proper Marriage) are set in Southern Africa and cover personal issues such as the role of women in society, mother-daughter relationships and adolescence while also addressing more public concerns such as race relations and politics - particularly Communism and its potential for addressing the iniquities of colonialism.

The five novel series Children of Violence3 and the highly acclaimed The Golden Notebook span both the aforementioned subject matters and a new strand of thinking which explores the idea of mental breakdown as spiritual break-through. These ideas are further explored in Memoirs of a Survivor and Briefing for a Descent into Hell.

The Canopus in Argos Archives are five science fiction novels which appear to attempt to explain history (on Earth or a similar planet) in terms of interference or guidance from two external powers. It would be too simplistic to equate these powers with 'good' and 'evil'.

Late Novels

In 1984 she published The Diary of a Good Neighbour under the pseudonym Jane Somers and submitted it to her usual publisher who turned it down. It was, however, published and a later edition incorporating Jane Somers' second novel If the Old Could, entitled The Diaries of Jane Somers, includes a foreword setting out her reasons for this subterfuge.

In 1988 she published what is possibly the scariest novella of all time: The Fifth Child - one has to be a parent to appreciate the horror portrayed.

Three of her novels have been filmed and one used as the libretto of an opera by Philip Glass.

Doris Lessing died on 17 November, 2013, aged 94.

1Which is now modern Iran.2Now Zimbabwe.3The series includes the following novels: Martha Quest, A Proper Marriage, A Ripple from the Storm, Landlocked and The Four-Gated City.

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