A Lesson from Lessing: Didn’t Win? Good News!

Doris Lessing

Photo by Elke Wetzig — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Under the “grass is always greener” category, what is more important to you: to keep working, contributing and creating; or to win a prize, even the ultimate prize?

According to the ever-perceptive Doris Lessing, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 2007, has been a “bloody disaster.”

In an interview with UK Radio 4′s Front Row, Lessing laments all the obstacles that come with being a prize winner: “All I do is give interviews and spend time being photographed.” As for her talent and vocation, “It has stopped, I don’t have any energy any more.”

No more novels because she has become too celebrated? (Do you think the fact that she has also become eighty-eight years of age has anything to do with the level of her energy?)

This is certainly a turn from the woman who declared on winning on the award: “Oh Christ! I couldn’t care less” and that the prize “doesn’t mean anything artistically.”

Lessing has always been a master of altering our perceptions of our world. The author of The Grass is Singing, The Golden Notebook, The Good Terrorist, amongst so many other significant works, has never shied from critiquing with a smile.

In an appearance at one festival, Lessing asked, “What use are men?” At another festival, she defended men against “unthinking and automatic rubbishing” by feminists.

So from all sides, it is worth considering the words of the Nobel’s oldest prize winner. Then again, wouldn’t you rather have the phone ring and the email box ping with some regular frequency?

Be it wisdom, weariness, or just age, Lessing deserves her prize and her privacy to work, if not at least think.

Born in Iran, and raised in Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe, Lessing’s voice also counts in politics: “Mugabe is a disaster.”

Through her work, and her interviews, Lessing has held fast to a core principle: “We are free… I can say what I think. We are lucky, privileged, so why not make use of it?”

Wouldn’t you, too, make good use of an award?

- Bill Reichblum

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One Response to “A Lesson from Lessing: Didn’t Win? Good News!”

  1. Stella
    May 23rd, 2008 16:09

    Love the article on Lessing!

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