MI5 suspected Doris Lessing of running brothel

Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing

Cahal Milmo writes:

Early in 1956, an officer from Scotland Yard’s Special Branch voiced his suspicions that a flat in Kensington was being used for “immoral purposes”. Chief among his grounds for concern were frequent visits by “persons of various nationalities” and the fact that its female resident was a “known Communist”.

The potential fifth columnist running an apparent house of ill repute was in fact one Doris Lessing, by then already a novelist of standing, and the “Americans, Chinese, Indians and negroes” visiting her home were attending to discuss the finer points of left-leaning literature and Marxist politics.

The allegation of brothel keeping, which Scotland Yard later begrudgingly admitted was baseless, was just one episode in a near 20-year operation by MI5 and British intelligence to keep Lessing, one of Britain’s most influential novelists who became the oldest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007, under surveillance as a suspected subversive.

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