Doris Lessing, the Nobel prize-winning author of The Golden Notebook and The Grass is Singing, among more than 50 other novels ranging from political to science fiction, has died at her London home aged 94.
The biographer Michael Holroyd, her friend and executor, called her contribution to literature “outstandingly rich and innovative”.
He said: “Her themes have been universal and international. They ranged from the problems of post-colonial Africa to the politics of nuclear power, the emergence of a new woman’s voice and the spiritual dimensions of 20th-century civilisation. Few writers have as broad a range of subject and sympathy.
“She is one of those rare writers whose work crosses frontiers, and her impressively large output constitutes a chronicle of our time. She has enlarged the territory both of the novel and of our consciousness.”
Nick Pearson, her editor at HarperCollins/4th Estate, said : “I adored her.”
He added: “When I took over looking after her books she had a fairly formidable reputation, and the first time I went to meet her I was terrified, but she was always completely charming to me. She was always more interested in talking about the other writers on our list, what the young writers were working on – and reading – than in talking about her own books.”
Her last novel, although several earlier books have since been re-released as e-books, was Albert and Emily, in 2008.
Pearson said: “That was a very interesting book for her, revisiting the early life of her mother and her father and how they had been touched by the first world war. At the time she said to me ‘this is my last book’, and we accepted that. She was already at a great age, and I could see she was tired.”
The publisher’s UK chief executive, Charlie Redmayne, added: “Doris Lessing was one of the great writers of our age. She was a compelling storyteller with a fierce intellect and a warm heart who was not afraid to fight for what she believed in. It was an honour for HarperCollins to publish her.”