Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nobel Prize in literature to Doris Lessing

On Thursday morning Oct. 11th when I turned on the morning radio I heard a discussion of Doris Lessing's work and life. I thought, "Lessing is 87, she must be dead." I had to wait an hour to learn that Lessing had won the Nobel prize for literature.

It brought me back to London twelve years ago when I had the good luck to visit Doris Lessing at her home. It was for an interview. She had been difficult to reach because she avoids being interrupted by inconsequential events. As soon as she opened the door and invited me in, neither of us could help noticing that we were wearing exactly the same attire, navy skirts, shirts, tights and shoes. Only our scarves were different. The coincidence made us laugh. We got off to a good start which gathered momentum as the time passed. Before we left she asked the photographer with me to take a photograph of "the navy sisters." We found that we had many interests in common. It was a memorable morning for me.

Three years ago I saw Lessing again at Hay on Wye, one of the great English book festivals. She kept a standing room only audience enthralled as she recounted various tales from her very full life. Every now and then she would pause and say, "Now where was I? Oh yes, ..." and she was off again on another verbal adventure. I spoke to her briefly afterwards and presented her with a small cat I had bought for her at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She was delighted, even though she was quite tired and the crowds were pushing forward with their books to be signed. What fortitude! What a great spirit! How lucky I was to be there!

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