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In September 2019 the Sainsbury Centre will host an exhibition to commemorate the centenary of Doris Lessing, one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Doris Lessing 100 exhibition will showcase the treasure trove of archival material that Lessing left to the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW) at the University of East Anglia. Her archive includes personal letters, drawings, manuscripts and memorabilia, the largest collection of her personal material in the world.


Lessing’s official biographer Patrick French, who has privileged access to the Archive, and her literary trustees, have agreed to release previously embargoed material for use exclusively in the exhibition. These letters shed new light on Lessing’s life as a writer, and give never-before-seen insights into the inspirations and preoccupations that informed her work.


The Doris Lessing 100 exhibition will introduce visitors to unfamiliar facets of a celebrated literary icon. It will explore Lessing’s time as a Communist activist in Africa and her surveillance by MI5 in London, as well as her later disavowal of Communism after witnessing conflicts in Hungary and Afghanistan. It will then examine her fascination with Sufi mysticism, the horrors and the promise of modern technology, and her later experimentations in science fiction. This will be Doris Lessing as you’ve never seen her before.