Doris Lessing

Protean Nobel Prize--winning novelist

Over a long life--she was 94 when she died on Nov. 17--Lessing produced dozens of novels, stories and essays--and one explosive device. It was her great and intricate second novel, The Golden Notebook, published in 1962. In it she set for herself nothing less than the task taken on by Anna Wulf, the writer-character who is Lessing's stand-in: to "create a new way of looking at life."

Wulf, a beset single mother trying to live as freely as a man, keeps four notebooks. The black one recounts her youth in West Africa before and during World War II. (The daughter of...

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