Author Doris Lessing has died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 94.
Author Doris Lessing has died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 94.

The Nobel-prize winning novelist Doris Lessing has died. Her publisher HarperCollins said she died peacefully in the early hours of Sunday.

She wrote more than 50 novels including The Golden Notebook and The Grass is Singing, among more than 50 other novels ranging from political to science fiction.

The author and critic Lisa Jardine described it as "a huge loss", while the agent Carole Blake described her as an "amazing writer and woman".

The writer Bidisha tweeted: "Doris Lessing: prolific multi-genre genius dies in sleep after writing world-changing novels and winning Nobel. Not bad at all."

Lessing was born in Iran and brought up in Zimbabwe, where her 1950 first novel, The Grass Is Singing, was set.

She became the oldest author to win the Nobel prize for literature and only the 11th woman to win the honour. With characteristic good humour she muttered: "Oh Christ," on learning that she had won the award at the age of 88.

Later she said: "I'm 88 years old and they can't give the Nobel to someone who's dead, so I think they were probably thinking they'd probably better give it to me now before I've popped off."

However, in a 2008 interview for the BBC's Front Row, she stated that increased media interest after the award had left her without time for writing.

The citation from the Swedish Academy called her "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".

Her 1962 novel The Golden Notebook was described as "a feminist bible" and in 2008, The Times ranked her fifth on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Because of her campaigning against nuclear arms and South African apartheid, Lessing was banned from that country and from Rhodesia for many years.