She says she was a bit surprised because she had forgotten about the award being announced today and she's been a likely contender for the something like 40 years:
Either they were going to give it to me sometime before I popped off or not at all.John Mullan on the Guardian blog writes about her achievements and her most important novel The Golden Notebook:
Of course the Nobel Prize is usually a long service award - the recognition of a status first gained decades ago and then held on to. So it was with Harold Pinter a couple of years ago, and, as with Pinter, there will be the thought that the award is a mark of her political influence. She has been known as a feminist novelist, especially because of The Golden Notebook, her most important novel. This defined an era by making fiction from arguments between women about what it was to be "Free Women" (the heading for the first section of the book). For 1962 it was audacious stuff. It brought to the English novel a heady brew of new material: political debate, psychotherapy sessions, disastrous sex. It is the earliest novel I know of to include matter-of-fact mentions of pre-menstrual tension and tampons.He also provides a timely reminder at the end of this piece (when he says only 6 of his class of 24 students had even heard of her) that there's a generation who haven't read her, and will enjoy discovering her books.
It was a novel in which the contradictions between a woman's different needs and desires are enacted in its very form. The Golden Notebook is made out of four notebooks (black, red, yellow, and blue), all supposedly written by Lessing's heroine, Anna: different narratives, only just held together. It has usually been the content of Lessing's fiction that has drawn attention. What is less often noticed is her restless experimentation with form and genre. She hardly seemed to worry about leaving many readers behind when she took to science fiction in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The genre was attractive to her because she wanted to write novels of ideas; she didn't worry about sales. Responding mischievously (and resentfully) to those who regretted that she had left "the real world" behind, she then wrote Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983), a bleakly realistic account of old age, which she sent to publishers under the pseudonym Jane Somers. She was delighted to note that without the label "Doris Lessing", publishers and reviewers (and maybe readers) had no idea what fictional direction she might take.
The Guardian has a treasure trove of archived articles, interviews and reviews. Elsewhere in the paper, Fiona Sampson looks at what makes an author "Nobelisable":
Writers are often identified as being Nobelisable for similar reasons. The Nobel prize carries an aura of the writer's life as a public one; of collective identity voiced, shaped or advocated by a visionary, perhaps even brave, individual. The writer as unacknowledged legislator, maybe, but nevertheless visibly engaged with their own society. There is something of this aura behind suggestions that the decision-making of the Nobel committee is "politicised". But maybe these suggestions have it back to front. Perhaps the Nobel prize, in so far as it honours the public effects of a writer's work, acknowledges the importance of big ideas. Perhaps it holds onto those twin notions - of the writer as thinker, rather than entertainer; of great writing as a matter of often-passionately-held ideas, rather than of style - which are so out of fashion in the Anglo-Saxon publishing world.The bold letters are mine. Lessing was always writer-as-thinker, is that a quality we really look for in writing today?
Nury Vittachi has a very nice Doris Lessing story to tell.