Lessing a surprise for Nobel Prize

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FRANKFURT, Germany -- The news that British novelist Doris Lessing won the 2007 Noble Prize for literature spread like a brush fire Thursday among publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Even industry insiders were surprised by the decision from the Swedish Academy to award the world's most prestigious book prize -- and its $1.5 million cash endowment -- to the feminist icon.

Lessing hadn't turned up on anyone's shortlist for this year's Nobel, with a troika of male writers -- U.S. novelist Philip Roth, Australia's Les Murray and Italian essayist Claudio Magris -- considered the front-runners.

Lessing is hardly an unknown. Her debut novel, "The Grass Is Singing" (1950), and her international breakthrough "The Golden Notebook" (1962) established her as one of the premier voices in the then-fledgling feminist movement.

"It belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th century view of the male-female relationship," the Swedish Academy said in its citation.

Like last year's winner, Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, Lessing also is a political figure. Her outspoken criticism of the South Africa and Southern Rhodesia governments got her banned from both countries in the 1950s.

Several of Lessing's works have been adapted for the screen -- Michael Raeburn directed 1981's "The Grass Is Singing," and Julie Christie starred in David Gladwell's 1981 adaptation of Lessing's "Memoirs of a Survivor" -- but the British writer has fallen out of favor with filmmakers of late. The last of her novels to be adapted for the screen was "The Diary of a Good Neighbor," which French director Rene Feret shot as "Rue du retrait" in 2001.
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