HARARE — Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing, who died last year, spent her early years in Zimbabwe. She is still giving back to the country whose former white rulers banished her for speaking against racial discrimination.
The bulk of Lessing’s book collection was handed over to the Harare City Library, which will catalogue the more than 3,000 books. The donation complements the author’s role in opening libraries in Zimbabwe, to make books available to rural people.
“For us she continues to live,” said 42-year-old Kempson Mudenda, who worked with Lessing when she established the Africa Community Publishing and Development Trust.
“The libraries she helped set up are giving life to village children who would otherwise be doomed,” said Mudenda, who said he used to trudge bush paths daily to reach remote villages with books.
Lessing’s trust started libraries in thatched mud huts and under trees after the author was allowed to return to Zimbabwe following independence in 1980.
Lessing went to what was then Southern Rhodesia with her parents as a child, staying from 1924 for 25 years until she moved to London. After achieving success with her first novel, “The Grass Is Singing,” she returned in 1956 but was soon expelled for criticizing the white rulers of the time. She returned again in 1982. She died at her home in London at the age of 94.
In her writing, Lessing explored topics ranging from colonial Africa to dystopian Britain, from the mystery of being female to the unknown worlds of science fiction. She was best known for “The Golden Notebook,” in which heroine Anna Wulf uses four notebooks to bring together the separate parts of her disintegrating life.
Talent Nyathi, a Zimbabwean who co-founded the book trust with Lessing, remembered writing bookcatalogues on “paper used to wrap meat” and nailing them on trees for villagers to read. Today, she said, the trust runs almost 200 village libraries.
Lessing owned some of the recently donated books when she was a teenager in Zimbabwe, said granddaughter Susannah Cowen. They are, she said, coming home.