Novelist Lessing says nowhere else to go after Nobel

Wed Jan 30, 2008 5:24pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Doris Lessing, too ill to attend an award ceremony last year, received the Nobel prize for literature on Wednesday saying there was no higher accolade for a writer except, perhaps, "a pat on the head from the Pope."

The frail-looking 88-year-old, wearing a long red velvet dress and her silver hair pulled back from her face, was typically irreverent at a champagne reception in the main gallery of the Wallace Collection in central London.

"It is astonishing and amazing," the 2007 winner said in a short acceptance speech after being handed a Nobel medal by Swedish ambassador Staffan Carlsson.

"But I would like to say that there isn't anywhere to go from here, is there, unless, like some exemplars, recent ones, I could get a pat on the head from the Pope."

Lessing did not say who she was referring to, although former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who she described in a recent interview as "a disaster for Britain," had talks with the Pope last year ahead of his conversion to Catholicism.

She also described her fantasy of reaching heaven, only to be told by Peter, the Christian apostle often portrayed as the keeper of the gates:

"Doris, you know that you are there simply because you are standing in for all the other writers who work so hard and who don't get prizes?"

Her dream is interrupted by her father, who says: "You're getting a bit above yourself, my girl, and we don't like it."   Continued...

<p>British novelist Doris Lessing smiles as she poses with her Nobel Prize for Literature at the Wallace Collection in London, January 30, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>