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life events

  • She was born in Iran, then known as Persia, in 1919
  • Her father worked for the Imperial Bank.
  • When she was five, her father visited an exhibition in London which encouraged white farmers to go to southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to farm maize. Although he had no experience of farming, he moved the whole family to Rhodesia

"I was brought up on the farm in the bush, which was the best thing that happened, it was just a wonderful childhood. One of my most formative experiences was listening to my mother playing Beethoven and Chopin on the piano and listening to the drums playing in the compound: two kinds of music playing together. And as a child I didn't see any reason why they shouldn't be played together, you had to be much older to understand that African drums and Chopin weren't really a part of the same phenomenon"
Doris Lessing

  • Doris Lessing describes herself as a very early drop-out. She left school at fourteen and then taught herself through reading.
  • Aged seventeen she moved to Harare which she hated- she found it very provincial and dull.
  • She got married when she was twenty and had two children but was increasingly unhappy about the political situation in Southern Rhodesia, particularly the racism of the white ruling class.
  • Aged twenty three she joined the Communist party, where for the first time she found other people who felt as she did about Rhodesia. A year later she left her first husband and two children to marry another communist, Gottfried Lessing and had a son.
  • In 1949 they parted. Unable to bear life in Rhodesia, she came to England with her son, which meant leaving her first two children behind.
"Obviously it was very painful but I could not stand that society. You have no idea of the awfulness of it, I was going completely mad and I wouldn't have stuck it so I knew I had to leave. What amazes me now is that I had the strength of mind to do it - because after all I was very young, I had noone to support me, I just knew I had to do it. It wasn't the children I was leaving it was that..... noone who hasn't lived in one of these colonies knows just how stultifying they are..."
Doris Lessing

  • Lessing arrived in England with the manuscript of her first novel The Grass Is Singing, which was published the following year and achieved outstanding success. She's lived in England ever since.
life events
key influences and themes
Lessing's work
the next chapter
being a woman writer
  Women Writers
  Ama Ata Aidoo
  Meena Alexander
  Maya Angelou
  Shashi Deshpande
  Margaret Drabble
  Buchi Emecheta
  Jamaica Kincaid
  Bharati Mukherjee
  Michele Roberts
  Helen Simpson

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