Doris Lessing, a Nobel Prize-winning novelist and essayist whose deeply autobiographical books and piercing social commentary made her one of the most significant and wide-ranging writers since World War II, died Sunday at her home in London. She was 94.
Her publisher, HarperCollins, announced the death, but did not disclose the cause.
Ms. Lessing's literary reach touched on relationships between men and women, racism, colonialism, feminism, communism, aging and terrorism. A perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, she won the coveted award in 2007.
The Nobel committee described her as an "epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny."
Controversial, contentious and an autodidact, Ms. Lessing drew deeply from her childhood and youth growing up on a farm in Southern Rhodesia (now part of Zimbabwe), where she first became aware of deep racial injustices, the struggle between cultures of native Africans and white immigrants, and the timeless conflict between the demands of the individual conscience and the good of society.
Her debut novel, The Grass Is Singing in 1950, examined the tragic relationship between two Africans, a white farmer's wife and her black servant, and a study of unbridgeable racial conflicts. That, in addition to her outspoken criticism of racial injustice and apartheid in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa, prompted those places to ban her for 30 years.
She wrote more than 50 books, as well as many short stories, essays and plays, before publishing her final book, Alfred and Emily, in 2008, which both imagines and explores the lives of her parents.
Her most ambitious and most discussed novel was The Golden Notebook from 1962, in which she considers relationships between the sexes through a complex narrative, revealing how political and emotional conflicts are intertwined. The protagonist, a modern female writer who tries to live as freely as a man, keeps four color-coded notebooks in which she reviews her experiences, reflects on her political life, writes a novel and pens a personal diary, bringing all four together into a golden notebook.
Her fans were aghast in the 1980s when she turned from psychological novels to science fiction, but the author dismissed such concerns. "I see inner space and outer space as reflections of each other," she declared.