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Book News: Doris Lessing's Personal Library Returns Home — To Zimbabwe

Sitting on the steps outside her London home, Doris Lessing learns from reporters that she won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Shaun Curry
AFP/Getty Images
Sitting on the steps outside her London home, Doris Lessing learns from reporters that she won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

In retrospectives, Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing often gets tagged as a British novelist, having been born to British parents and spent decades living in London. Yet for some 25 years of her youth, Lessing lived in Zimbabwe — then a British colony called Southern Rhodesia. After leaving the country, and even after being banned briefly for criticizing the colony's white leaders, she still devoted much of her energy in later years to opening libraries there.

Despite Lessing's death last year, those efforts have pressed on. More than 3,000 books from Lessing's personal collection have now been donated to the Harare City Library in Zimbabwe, according to The Associated Press. The gift has been made by Lessing's estate upon the request of the Africa Community Publishing and Development Trust, which Lessing helped found and which now reportedly runs nearly 200 libraries.

12 Days Of Potter: J.K. Rowling has promised a few "festive surprises" in the lead-up to Christmas. Starting on Friday, her Harry Potter-themed website, Pottermore, will play host to a new piece every morning for a dozen days. According to the website's newsletter, this crop will include "brand new writing by J.K. Rowling and even a new potion or two." And don't be surprised to find Rowling spin an entirely new yarn or two from loose threads in the Harry Potter saga: The Telegraph is reporting that one of the new pieces will feature Draco Malfoy.

Prison Book Ban Overturned: The British High Court of Justice has lifted a ban on sending books to prisoners in England and Wales. The government's ban, which had prevented prisoners from receiving packages except under "exceptional circumstances," had drawn considerable ire from British writers and activists. The court's decision effectively ruled the ban unlawful, as the presiding judge said he saw "no good reason" to restrict prisoners' access to books.

Girl Online Had Offline Team: Recall Zoella's big debut? It turns out that vlogger Zoe Sugg's novel Girl Online, which just broke the record for first-week sales of a debut author in the U.K., was at least partially ghostwritten, after all. Sugg's publisher confirmed to The Sunday Times that a team of writers helped her compose the book, and The Independent notes a blog post by freelance writer Siobhan Curham that explained how she'd written a novel in just six weeks — a novel now suspected to be Girl Online.

Modiano Speaks: Patrick Modiano, the newly named Nobel Prize winner, delivered his Nobel address on Sunday night at the Swedish Academy. On the off-chance you couldn't grab a flight to Stockholm to see it live in person, watch Modiano's speech here — although the video won't do you too much good if you don't know French. Nicely though, unlike many of Modiano's books, his speech has already been translated to English, and it can be read in its entirety here.

"Today, I get the sense that memory is much less sure of itself, engaged as it is in a constant struggle against amnesia and oblivion," Modiano said. "Yet it has to be the vocation of the novelist, when faced with this large blank page of oblivion, to make a few faded words visible again, like lost icebergs adrift on the surface of the ocean."

Flipping Ahead

New in print (and screen)

In 1989, Richard McGuire made a splash with a slim, 36-panel comic called "Here." Some 25 years later, McGuire has finally fleshed that comic into a 300-page book meditation on memory. Each page of Here not only depicts the action ongoing in a single room, but also offers windows onto the very same space at different points in time. The result is a web of interconnection that eludes the conventions of storytelling and yet, as reviewer Etelka Lehoczky notes, still manages to plumb the emotions: "As your eye lurches around the page, as you flip back and forth between pages, an irresistible sentiment swells. Rare among conceptual works, Here manages to tug your heart even as it undercuts your comfortable role of reader."

Anita Diamant's novel The Boston Girl follows the life of a woman born to Jewish immigrant parents in that New England city. As the woman, Addie Baum, grows and forges a position of independence for herself, Diamond reflects that Baum's fictional story is also tied up with the stories of so many other real immigrants — from both her own era and ours. "The struggle between the old and the new, the feeling of otherness in this culture — I think that's a given," Diamant told NPR's Scott Simon. "It's part of American history, it's part of American society and culture, up to this very minute."

Fallen Olympian Oscar Pistorius is in prison serving a five-year term for manslaughter. Journalist John Carlin looks at the events that brought him there in the new book Chase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius. On Weekend Edition, Carlin related what it was like to watch Pistorius on the witness stand: "Pistorius was, as the judge would later say, not a good witness at all. He was continually contradicting himself, confusing. Pistorius was compelling in the sense that he just broke down in the most sort of ... Shakespearean, highly dramatic way on numerous occasions — not just weeping, but howling."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.

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