Doris Lessing Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111204768-Lessing.jpgDoris Lessing Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Doris Lessing is one of the best known British novelists of her generation. Born Doris May Taylor, her parents were Alfred Cook Taylor, an English bank clerk, and Emily Maude McVeagh, his wartime nurse. The couple emigrated to Persia (later Iran) shortly after World War I, and in 1925 they moved with their daughter and younger son, Harry, to a farm in southern Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe). The family was always poor. The father, whose leg had been amputated, was a dreamer who became a cynic, and the mother was domineering but ineffective. They were socially and physically isolated, surrounded by the open veld. Lessing attended a Catholic school in Salisbury but left in 1933 because of eye problems; after her formal schooling ended at age fourteen, she continued reading voraciously.{$S[A]Somers, Jane;Lessing, Doris}

In 1938 Lessing moved to Salisbury to work in various jobs and to begin writing. She married Frank Charles Wisdom in 1939, had a son and a daughter, and was divorced in 1943. Two years later she married Gottfried Lessing; they had a son and were divorced in 1949. Much of her work deals with the Africa of her youth and young adulthood. Lessing moved to London, England, in 1949 and published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, which shows her concern for racial issues and the plight of women. The book was a great success. It was reprinted seven times within five months of its publication, setting the pattern of widespread sales for nearly all of her subsequent works.

Lessing continued to live in London, though she traveled widely, as suggested in both her fiction and nonfiction, and her writing continued steadily. She was briefly a member of the Communist Party but left it officially in 1956. In the late 1950’s she participated in mass demonstrations for nuclear disarmament and was a speaker at the first Aldermaston March in 1958. During the early 1960’s Lessing also worked in the theater, helping to establish Centre 42, a populist arts program, and writing her own plays.

In the late 1960’s Lessing’s thinking was influenced by the mystical teachings of Sufism, which emphasizes conscious evolution of the mind in harmony with self and others. The relationship between the individual and the collective has been a major Lessing theme. Her works present a sense of urgency, of the need for change in both individual consciousness and social harmony. The human race knows better than it acts, Lessing always suggests, and human beings must learn to live together in greater social concord. This central theme appears not only in her realistic works such as the Children of Violence series (which includes Martha Quest, A Proper...

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Doris Lessing Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Born to British parents in Persia, where her father, Alfred Cook Tayler, worked in a bank, Doris May Lessing moved to southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1925, when she was five. There she lived on a remote farm, south of Zambezi. “Our neighbors were four, five, seven miles off. In front of the house no neighbors, nothing; no farms, just wild bush with two rivers but no fences to the mountains seven miles away.” In her teens, she moved to a “very small town that had about ten thousand white persons in it. The black population did not count, though it was fairly large.” This was the Africa of apartheid; Lessing would later chronicle its horrors.

While still in her teens, Lessing married and had two children. She later married again and, in 1949, left her second husband to go to England, bringing her son with her. The emptiness of the African veld and the life of small African towns are the themes of much of her earlier work, including the early volumes of the Children of Violence series. The scene then shifts in her fiction, as it did in her life, to England, and particularly London.

Lessing was a member of communist groups in both Africa and England. In Africa, she describes the group as “having no contact with any kind of reality. I found this when I came to England and had a short association with the British Communist party.” Lessing’s disillusionment with the difference between the official Communist Party and the...

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Doris Lessing Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Doris Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in Kermnshh, Persia (now Bkhtarn, Iran), on October 22, 1919, the first child of Alfred Cook Tayler and Emily Maude McVeagh Tayler, who had emigrated from England to Persia shortly after World War I. A brother, Harry, was born two years later, and in 1925 the family moved to a farm in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Her parents were never financially successful. Her father was a dreamer who became a cynic after he failed at maize farming; her mother was domineering but ineffective. Despite Lessing’s love of the African landscape and the isolated veld, she was eager to leave her family behind. She attended a Catholic convent school in Salisbury (now Harare) but left when she was fourteen, saying that she had eye problems, though she continued her voracious reading.

Lessing left home when she was fifteen to become a nursemaid and moved to Salisbury to work in various jobs, mostly clerical, and began writing fiction. She married Frank Charles Wisdom, a minor civil servant, in 1939, and had a son, John, and a daughter, Jean. Divorced in 1943, she was remarried two years later to a German Jewish refugee, Gottfried Lessing. They had a son, Peter, in 1947. She divorced Gottfried Lessing in 1949 and that same year moved to England, settling in London. In 1950 she published her first novel. She continued to live in London and to make her living as a professional writer, writing reviews, media scripts, and nonfiction in addition to her novels, short stories, drama, and poetry.

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Doris Lessing Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Doris May Tayler Lessing was born in Kermnshh, Persia (now Bkhtarn, Iran), on October 22, 1919, the daughter of Alfred Cook Tayler and Emily Maude McVeagh. As a soldier during World War I, Alfred Tayler sustained a serious injury that left him an amputee. While convalescing, he fell in love with his nurse, Emily McVeagh, and married her. After the war ended, they moved to Persia, where Alfred began working in a bank. Soon after the young couple were settled in Persia, financial incentives enticed them to try their luck in Southern Rhodesia, a recently established British colony in Africa. They made plans to relocate; by the time that Alfred and Emily were ready to move into their Rhodesian farmhouse, a daughter, Doris May Tayler, had been born. Once engaged in farming, Alfred and Emily Tayler found that the dream that they had pursued did not bring the promise of riches envisioned earlier. For one reason or another, their expectations for amassing wealth were never realized, and they were forced to accommodate themselves to a life that was disappointingly modest by local white standards.

As a young girl growing up in frontier country, Lessing did not feel the disappointment of her parents. The veld, bordering their farm, held for her an array of attractions. As an adolescent, she would take long solitary walks across the unspoiled countryside, often carrying a rifle to shoot small game. Given unlimited opportunity to observe nature on the vast canvas of the veld and given...

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Doris Lessing Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although Doris Lessing is a writer of a great narrative range, the themes that run throughout her work have been constant. Her concentration on such important extraliterary themes as colonialism, racial inequities, male-female relations, nuclear war possibilities, and the continuing evolution of humankind reveals her commitment to the betterment of humanity and underscores her belief in the serious role of the artist in society.

In reading a Lessing book, one soon realizes that the undertaking is essentially expansive, for the writer’s intent is not only to engage the reader’s imagination through a literary experience but also to enlarge the reader’s concept of what it means to live in harmony with oneself, with the world, and with the universe.

Doris Lessing Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Doris Lessing was born October 22, 1919, in the country of Persia, which is now Iran. Her parents were English, and while Lessing was still...

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Doris Lessing Biography (Short Stories for Students)

On October 22, 1919, Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in Persia (now Iran), where her parents, both British citizens, were living at the...

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Doris Lessing Biography (Drama for Students)

Doris Lessing was born Doris May Tayler, in Persia (later renamed as Iran) to English parents on October 22, 1919. Her family then moved to...

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Doris Lessing Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Doris Lessing was born Doris May Tayler on October 22, 1919, in Kermanshah, Persia (now Iran) to two transplanted British expatriates, Alfred...

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Doris Lessing Biography

Introduction

Considered a significant writer of the post-World War II generation, Lessing has explored many of the most significant ideologies and social issues of the twentieth century. Her prolific body of work displays many interests and concerns, ranging from racism, Communism, and feminism, to psychology and mysticism. Lessing began her career in the 1950s, writing realist fiction that focused on themes of racial injustice and colonialism. As her writing developed, Lessing began to compose fiction that anticipated many major feminist concerns of the late 1960s and 1970s. Her strong-willed, independent heroines often suffer emotional crises in male-dominated societies and must struggle with dominant sociopolitical constructs to reach higher levels of identity and liberation. A consistent theme cultivated throughout her work is the need for individuals to confront their fundamental assumptions about life in order to transcend preconceived belief systems and acquire self-awareness. -- Doris Lessing Criticism