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Britain's Lessing wins 2007 Nobel for literature

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - British novelist Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel Prize for literature on Thursday for a body of work that delved into human relations and inspired a generation of feminist writers.

British writer Doris Lessing is seen in Oviedo in this October 25, 2001 file photo. Lessing won the 2007 Nobel Prize for literature, the Swedish Academy said on Thursday. REUTERS/Alonso Gonzalez

The academy, which awards the coveted 10 million Swedish crown ($1.54 million) prize, called 87-year-old Lessing an “epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”.

Lessing, the oldest Nobel literature laureate since the prizes began in 1901, was the 34th woman Nobellist and the 11th female to take the literature award.

“Doris doesn’t know yet, because she’s popped to the shops,” said a spokeswoman for Lessing’s agent Jonathan Clowes.

Clowes added in a statement: “We are absolutely delighted and it’s very well deserved.”

Jane Friedman, chief executive of Lessing publisher HarperCollins, called the award a complete surprise.

“This is such wonderful news. This is absolutely extraordinary,” she told Reuters at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

“She has been an icon for women for a lifetime.”

Nicholas Pearson, Lessing’s editor at HarperCollins division the Fourth Estate, called the news “thrilling”.

“Those early books changed the face of literature - the description of the inner lives of women,” he told Reuters.

Lessing debuted as a novelist with “The Grass is Singing” in 1950, a book that examined the relationship between a white farmer’s wife and her black servant.

Her 1962 work “The Golden Notebook” was widely considered her breakthrough.

“The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th century view of the male-female relationship,” the academy said in its citation.

Lessing was born to British parents in what was then Persia, now Iran. Her family moved to Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in 1925.

She ended her formal schooling at 14.

This was the fourth of this year’s crop of Nobel prizes, handed out annually for achievements in science, literature, economics and peace.

Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in Frankfurt, Jerker Hellstrom, Adam Cox and Simon Johnson in Stockholm, Mike Collett-White in London