Surprising choice

And the Nobel prize for literature goes to….Doris Lessing.

Doris Lessing, author of dozens of works from short stories to science fiction, including the classic “The Golden Notebook,” won the Nobel Prize for literature Thursday. She was praised by the judges for her “skepticism, fire and visionary power.”

The Swedish academy’s announcement was stunning even by the standards of Nobel judges, who have been known for such surprises as Austria’s Elfriede Jelinek and Italy’s Dario Fo.

Lessing, 11 days short of her 88th birthday, is the oldest choice ever for a prize that usually goes to authors in their 50s and 60s. Although she is widely celebrated for “The Golden Notebook” and other works, she has received little attention in recent years and has been criticized as strident and eccentric.

Even Lessing apparently was not expecting to win, the academy’s permanent secretary Horace Engdahl told The Associated Press.

“I’ve phoned her but there’s been no answer. She was not sitting and waiting for my call,” Engdahl said. “She doesn’t know yet, and I’m afraid she’s out taking a stroll somewhere in the park and people will attack her with the news.”

Lessing’s agent, Jonathan Clowes, said the London-based author was out shopping when the prize was announced.

I’m not a huge fan of Lessing, but The Golden Notebook is an undeniable and enduring classic , the Children of Violence series is better than average, and The Fifth Child is one of the most disturbing novels I’ve ever read; but I just never saw Lessing as Nobel material. I honestly believed that the next woman writer selected would be either Margaret Atwood or Joyce Carol Oates. Go figure.

It would also be nice if they got it over with and just gave Philip Roth his…

Your choices in comments and remember that only living authors are eligible, precluding Italo Calvino and Harold Robbins alike…

(Added) There is a misconception that the Nobel is some kind of English Only Club. Not really, based on recent history:

# 2006 – Orhan Pamuk
# 2005 – Harold Pinter
# 2004 – Elfriede Jelinek
# 2003 – J. M. Coetzee
# 2002 РImre Kert̩sz
# 2001 – V. S. Naipaul
# 2000 – Gao Xingjian
# 1999 – Günter Grass
# 1998 РJos̩ Saramago
# 1997 – Dario Fo
# 1996 – Wislawa Szymborska
# 1995 – Seamus Heaney
# 1994 – Kenzaburo Oe
# 1993 – Toni Morrison
# 1992 – Derek Walcott
# 1991 – Nadine Gordimer
# 1990 – Octavio Paz
# 1989 РCamilo Jos̩ Cela
# 1988 – Naguib Mahfouz
# 1987 – Joseph Brodsky
# 1986 – Wole Soyinka
# 1985 – Claude Simon
# 1984 – Jaroslav Seifert
# 1983 – William Golding
# 1982 – Gabriel García Márquez
# 1981 – Elias Canetti
# 1980 – Czeslaw Milosz
# 1979 – Odysseus Elytis
# 1978 – Isaac Bashevis Singer

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