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Doris Lessing sees no literary potencial in Zimbabwe for now

Nobel literature prize winner Doris Lessing is sure that Zimbabwe is unlikely to produce great writers under President Robert Mugabe.

"Writers are not made in Zimbabwe. Not easily, not under Mugabe," the British writer said in the traditional Nobel lecture given by literature laureates.

The speech titled "On not winning the Nobel Prize" was read at the Swedish Academy by her publisher Nicholas Pearson because Lessing, 88, couldn't travel to Stockholm due to back problems.

"It is said that a people gets the government it deserves, but I do not think it is true of Zimbabwe," Lessing said in the speech, which was also published on the academy's Web site.

"And we must remember that this respect and hunger for books comes, not from Mugabe's regime, but from the one before it, the whites."

Lessing grew up at a farm in southern Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe. She now lives in London.

In her lecture, she juxtaposed the desire for literature she had experienced in dusty classrooms in Africa with the indifference and cynicism with which she said writers were met in the West.

"We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women who have had years of education, to know nothing about the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some specialty or other, for instance, computers," Lessing said.

"We have a treasure-house - a treasure - of literature, going back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans. It is all there, this wealth of literature, to be discovered again and again by whoever is lucky enough to come on it," she said. "Suppose it did not exist. How impoverished, how empty we would be."

Lessing's work including the classic "The Grass Is Singing," has drawn heavily from her time living in Africa and many times explored the divide between whites and blacks.

In its award citation, the Swedish Academy called her an "epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny."

Since Lessing is not able to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony Monday in Stockholm, her award will be presented to her later in London, the Nobel Foundation said.

Lessing is the oldest winner of the Nobel Prize in literature.

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