Doris Lessing: interview

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London's very own Nobel Prize for Literature laureate whose career has spanned over half a century, Doris Lessing is one of our 40th birthday heroes

  • See all Time Out's 40th birthday London heroes

    Who are your London heroes?

    ‘I rather like our ex-mayor and I also like Boris Johnson, though I don’t think being mayor is his forte really. He’d probably be better as a prime minister. He’s got the personality, the sort of extraordinary-pleased-with-himself quality. But I hated Blair who also has this pleased-with-himself quality. I never thought of London in terms of possible heroes – of course, there are thousands. It’s a very talented city.’

    What is your favourite place/aspect in London?

    ‘Well, I just love the National Theatre. I haven’t been since last November. As soon as I got the Nobel Prize my back collapsed and I was in hospital. And I was in bed and the doctors said, “About your kidneys… About your heart…” I didn’t know I had kidneys or a heart. So now I’ve got a heart and all this stuff I’ve never thought about before.’

    What’s the future for literature in London?

    ‘We are going to have to face the fact that books are not going to be as important as they have been. There was a time when young people respected learning and literature and now they don’t. What is going to happen is a minority will remain passionate about literature and that will go on, but I think the time has gone.’

    What does Time Out mean to you?

    ‘I sort of rely on it for things that need to be said. It’s a good voice – some of the newspapers used to be like that but they’re not now. You might not believe this but The Observer was once very important. But nobody’s going to read The Observer now for it standing for anything. So in fact you’re pretty unique aren’t you? We always rely on you to do things right.’

    Complete the sentence: London is…

    ‘…just a cornucopia. It is so wonderful. To appreciate London you should have been brought up in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia… You come here and it’s this great, magnificent, backwards of everything. But, of course, people who are brought up here just don’t know that.’
    See all Time Out's 40th birthday London heroes

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