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  • MI5, Britain's internal intelligence service, had built up a five-volume secret file on  Doris Lessing that has now been placed in the National Archives.

    MI5, Britain's internal intelligence service, had built up a five-volume secret file on  Doris Lessing that has now been placed in the National Archives. | Photo: AFP

Published 21 August 2015

New secret documents reveal that spy agency MI5 kept tabs on Nobel Prize-winning writer Doris Lessing for her communist and anti-racism views.

British intelligence agency MI5 spied on Nobel Prize-winning writer Doris Lessing between 1943-964 because of her communist and anti-racism views, according to secret documents made public Friday.

MI5 had built up a five-volume secret file on Lessing that has now been placed in the National Archives.

A 1952 memo from MI6 described her as "certainly pro-Communist, though it is doubtful she is a member of the party" in the United Kingdom. She went back to London in 1949.

"Her communist sympathies have been fanned almost to the point of fanaticism by her upbringing in Rhodesia," the memo added. "Colonial exploitation is her pet theme ... saying that everything Black is wonderful and that all men and all things white are vicious."

The author of "The Golden Notebook," one of the most influential novels of the 1960s, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007. She died in 2013 aged 94.

Lessing was a member of the Communist Party in the British colony of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where she grew up with her English parents.

The agency kept details about her visits to East Germany and Cold War Moscow at the invitation of the Union of Soviet Writers.

The file by colonial intelligence services also said she spoke of the "superiority of living conditions and educational development in the Soviet Union compared with other European countries and Africa."

Sections of the file further described certain “immoral practices” at Lessing's house as they kept track of those who visited her and people she interacted with.

"Her flat is frequently visited by persons of various nationality, including Americans, Indians, Chinese and Negroes," a report by the Special Branch of London's Metropolitan Police submitted to the MI5 said. "Some of the visitors seem to stay at the flat for days at a time and some of the visits are made by apparently unmarried couples."

The report further concluded "it is possible that the flat is being used for immoral practices."

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