21 June 2016

In Gratitude

Jenny Diski died April 28, 2016.  When told of her impending demise she made jokes. In 2014 she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She felt:

"Embarrassment at first, to the exclusion of all other feelings."

That September she wrote in the London Review of Books:

"Under no circumstances is anyone to say that I lost a battle with cancer, or that I bore it bravely. I am not fighting, losing, winning or bearing." 

She would end her life writing.  She had, after all, written most of her life.  She had read numerous "cancer memoirs" and asserted:

"There are no novel responses possible."

And yet, in true Diski style, she wondered whose cancer book would sell the most copies.

After the initial shock, Diski tells the story of her chaotic early life, leading her to be taken in by literary giant, Doris Lessing.   Diski had been at school with Lessing's son, Peter.  They were not close, but when Diski was expelled, he implored his mother to take her in and she was quite intelligent.

Diski was almost literally dumped on Lessing's front steps.  It was not a match made in heaven. Lessing was not in the least "motherly" and Diski was uncomfortable in this new setting.  Diski says:

"Gratitude was half of what I felt. The other half was fury and resentment..."

As a cancer patient, Diski was ideal.  She was already  anti-social, preferring to spend time in her bed or on the sofa, like some consumptive Victorian victim.  She wrote:

"I have the metabolism of a sloth."

The chemo leaves the normally slim Diski, heavy.  She fears what is going to happen her. She is honest. She is funny. She is panicked. She is a writer. She will be missed.


  1. You teach me so much. Thank you for this. She sounds like a marvelous writer - put two of her books on hold at library !

  2. The ending is unexpected or it was for me, and I did not want to let her go. I am happy to meet Jenny Diski, will read everything I can find of hers, and only wish my introduction to here was not her death.


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