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Doris Lessing: Nobelist

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They could have given it to Philip Roth for paeans to his penis. They could have found some previously untranslated shepherd in Transylvania writing haiku in a language spoken by a dozen other shepherds. They could have found some trendy political prisoner, jailed for his writing. But, amazingly, the Nobel committee decided to recognize a woman writer whose work has opened up the female soul to literary scrutiny, chronicled and questioned the war between the sexes, refused to categorize the human species by cliché or received wisdom and allowed her great imagination to engage the universe. This prize gives me hope that one day women writers maybe celebrated for their creativity rather than diminished for their gender.

Doris Lessing's books have irritated me as much as delighted me. I believe that the greatest writers are irritants. (Think of Jonathan Swift). The Golden Notebook inspired me because its heroine was a woman as engaged by her intellectual and political life as her sexual life. She was a woman in full. I longed to write books about such women -- not mad housewives, not sex-maniacs, but whole people struggling, as most of us struggle, to put the disparate pieces of our lives together.

Doris Lessing inspired me. She still inspires me. I have been less than inspired by the literary choices of the Nobel committee. This year they have redeemed themselves. Now Doris Lessing will be reprinted and able to reach more readers. She will go into the bloodstreams of young writers, filling them with the oxygen of innovation. May she inspire you as she has inspired me.