Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Lessing in 1949Less Nobel is more, says laureate Lessing, talking with the BBC. "All I do is give interviews and spend time being photographed," says the nonagenarian author who has been "in constant demand".

Lessing in 1956Born Doris May Tayler in Kermanshah, Persia, Lessing is not well covered online, at least in terms of the number of photos available. Regrettably, most are recent. The few shown here can be supplemented by numerous others on a website full of Lessing detail.

Lessing in 1965It is scandalous, the paucity of visual record for Lessing, who in December inveigled against the Internet. Now, she's inveigling against her lack of drive. Her recent novel will, she says, be her last. The full BBC interview will be broadcast on radio.

Lessing in 1975The break with tradition - she's a force of nature - is deplorable. In a 2003 interview with PBS, Lessing told Bill Moyers that she was "compulsive". So how does she cope? "I don't have any energy any more," she says, mimicking Marquez. "Use it while you've got it because it'll go, it's sliding away like water down a plughole."

Lessing in 1984The Columbian writer has produced a memoir and a novella (short novel?) in recent years. But at the beginning of 2006 said he'd "dried up". I wouldn't suggest this in Lessing's case, but it does appear that her drive has slipped a disc. She tells younger writers "don't imagine you'll have it forever".

Lessing in 1989As in the case of many writers, the idea of writing came from reading. "I never stopped reading," she told Moyes. "It was what saved me. And educated me." Her mother helped by ordering "bushels" of books from England. A "child of World War I", Lessing told Moyes she knew "what it's like to be brought up in an atmosphere of a continual harping on about war".

Lessing in an undated photoShe became a "Red", she says because "the local Reds were the only people that ever read anything".

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