Doris May <I>Tayler</I> Lessing

Doris May Tayler Lessing

Kermanshah, Kermanshah, Iran
Death 17 Nov 2013 (aged 94)
London, City of London, Greater London, England
Burial Golders Green, London Borough of Barnet, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 153946715 · View Source
Suggest Edits

British Author, Nobel Prize Winner. A prolific writer of poems, science fiction, short stories, essays, and novels, she is best remembered for her novels "The Grass is Singing" (1950), "The Golden Notebook" (1962), and "The Good Terrorist" (1985). Born to British parents, her father, who had lost his leg during World War I, was a clerk for the Imperial Bank of Persia. In 1925, the family moved to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to try farming, which eventually proved to be unsuccessful. She attended the Dominican Convent High School, a Roman Catholic convent all-girls school in Salisbury (now Harare) and at the age of 14, she left school, and was self-educated from then on. When she was 15 years old, she left home and found employment as a nursemaid. She started reading material that her employer gave her on politics and sociology and began writing around this time. In 1937 she moved to Salisbury and worked as a telephone operator, and soon married and had two children, before the marriage ended in 1943. She became drawn to the popular community of the Left Book Club, a communist book club which she had joined the year before, and there met her second husband, Gottfried Lessing, the future East German ambassador to Uganda. After divorcing him in 1949, she moved to London, England to pursue her writing career and joined the British Communist party. After her first novel, "The Grass Is Singing," was published, she received her first notable award, the Somerset Maugham Award, in 1954. She campaigned against nuclear arms, and was an active opponent of apartheid which led he to being banned in 1956 from South Africa and Rhodesia. The same year, following the Soviet invasion of Hungary, she left the British Communist Party. Her breakthrough finally came in 1962 with the release of "The Golden Notebook." In 1982 she attempted to publish two novels under a pseudonym, Jane Somers, to show the difficulty new authors faced in trying to have their works in print. The novels were declined by her British publisher, but were later accepted by another British publisher, Michael Joseph, and in the US by Alfred A. Knopf. "The Diary of a Good Neighbour" was published in England and the US in 1983, and "If the Old Could" in both countries in 1984, both written under the Somers pseudonym. In 1984 both novels were re-published in both countries, this time under one cover, with the title "The Diaries of Jane Somers: The Diary of a Good Neighbour" and "If the Old Could," listing her real name as the author. Her other notable works include a collection of five novels called "Children of Violence' (1952 to 1969), "Memoirs of a Survivor (1974), a collection of five novels known as "Canopus in Argos: Archives" (1979 to 1983), "The Fifth Child" (1988), "The Sweetest Dream" (2001), and "The Cleft" (2007). After declining an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1977 and damehood in 1992, she finally accepted the Order of the Companions of Honour in 1999 and in 2000 she was made a Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature. In 2001 she received the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in British literature. In 2007 she was awarded the Nobel prize in Literature at the age of 88, making her the oldest winner of the literature prize at the time of the award and the third-oldest Nobel Laureate in any category (after Leonid Hurwicz and Raymond Davis Jr.) She also became only the 11th woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature by the Swedish Academy in its history. Her other notable awards include the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1981), the WH Smith Literary Award (1986), the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography (1995), and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1995). Her final novel, "Alfred and Emily" was published in 2008. That same year, the London Times ranked her 5th on a list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. She died at her home at the age of 94. The Doris Lessing Society, founded in 1977, is dedicated to supporting the scholarly study of her work.

Bio by: William Bjornstad


Planning a visit to Golders Green Crematorium?



How famous was Doris May Tayler Lessing?

Current rating:

25 votes

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: William Bjornstad
  • Added: 19 Oct 2015
  • Find A Grave Memorial 153946715
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Doris May Tayler Lessing (22 Oct 1919–17 Nov 2013), Find A Grave Memorial no. 153946715, citing Golders Green Crematorium, Golders Green, London Borough of Barnet, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .