Outspoken and unconventional, British novelist Doris Lessing (1919-2013) described herself as an "over-emotional person, born with skins too few," but one who has "gotten better over the years."
Born on this day in Persia (now Iran), she was raised on a remote maize farm in Southern Rhodesia. She left Catholic school in defiance at age 14. "I treasure solitude," she said. "One doesn't have to have human contact."
Married and divorced twice by the age of 29, her third marriage to communist Gottfried Lessing was in her words, "a political marriage and didn't count. We were so unsuited that, in fact, we behaved very well towards each other."
Her acclaimed books, over 40 and still counting, celebrate themes of revolution, love, and power. Her novels and short stories are passionate and of varied genre, from science fiction to fantasy to realism.
"What matters most," she said, "is that we learn from living." Lessing's famous The Golden Notebook (1962) has been called "a bible for feminists." She doesn't like the label.
In an interview, she called herself "a dinosaur" and observed that "our brains have been damaged by technology. I meet kids who don't seem to be capable of reading a long sentence, much less a long book."
With typical bluntness, she described television as a "toad in the corner," its invention "ended a verbal culture, people sitting around talking" because the TV observer is passive and only takes into the brain imposed images.
Read, she implored. "It is my personal belief that the children that have never been read to or told stories are very much impoverished."
The London Times called her "not only the best woman novelist we have, but one of the most serious and intelligent and honest writers of the postwar generation."
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