The 2007 Nobel laureate for literature, Doris Lessing, too ill to travel to Stockholm for the official ceremony Dec. 10, received her prize Wednesday night at a champagne reception in London.
Lessing, 88, greeted news of her award last year with the words, "I couldn't care less," and on Wednesday, she still was not entirely overwhelmed by the honour.
"There isn't anywhere to go from here, is there?" she said, before thinking of one more accolade: "I could receive a pat on the head from the pope."
Lessing was given the gold Nobel medal by Staffan Carlsson, Swedish Ambassador to the U.K., amid the Old Master paintings of the Wallace Collection art gallery in London.
Carlsson called her "forever young and wise, old and foolish … the least ingratiating of writers."
Born in Persia, now Iran, and raised in what is now Zimbabwe, Lessing drew on her experiences in colonial Africa for her debut novel, The Grass is Singing, published in 1950.
Her most influential book is probably The Golden Notebook, published in 1962 and considered a feminist classic.
Lessing praised for skepticism, visionary power
The author of more than 50 novels, volumes of short stories, memoirs and plays, Lessing was announced as the 2007 Nobel laureate for literature in October.
The Swedish Academy, which awards the 10 million kronor ($1.6 million) prize, praised her "skepticism, fire and visionary power."
Lessing was quite skeptical when first told she had won by reporters waiting outside her London house last year.
"Oh Christ, I couldn't care less," she said. "This has been going on for 30 years.
"I've won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I'm delighted to win them all. It's a royal flush."
Her Nobel acceptance speech, delivered in Stockholm last month by her publisher, Nicholas Pearson, was titled "On Not Winning the Nobel Prize."
In it she implored society to remember the importance of stories and books, despite a host of threats — including poverty and poor government in Zimbabwe and the internet and consumer culture in the West.
"We have a treasure-house — a treasure — of literature, going back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans. It is all there, this wealth of literature, to be discovered again and again by whoever is lucky enough to come on it," she said.
"Suppose it did not exist. How impoverished, how empty we would be."
Lessing's publisher, HarperCollins, said it was donating 10,000 books to Zimbabwean schools in recognition of the author's achievement. Three of Lessing's novels will be among the selection.
"We hope that the donation will be a fitting tribute to her unique talent and passion and that the books will inspire Zimbabwean schoolchildren for generations to come," said Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HarperCollins UK.