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Apology for the Woman Writing

(Virago, 2008)

Marie de Gournay was eighteen when she read, and was overwhelmed by, the essays of the French philosopher Montaigne. She had to be revived with hellebore. When she finally met Montaigne, she stabbed herself with a hairpin until the blood ran in order to show her devotion. He made her his adopted daughter for the two months they knew each other. He died four years later, after which, though scorned by intellectuals, she became his editor. Jenny Diski engages with this passionate and confused relationship between 'father and daughter', old writer/young acolyte, possible lovers, using both their voices. Much of their story is about absence of the people they love. In Jenny Diski's hands it becomes a fascinating tale.

Jenny Diski has a fine eye and ear for human details... Her thought is sinuous...provoked by a fathomless curiosity about human experience.

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Only Human

(Virago, 2001)

Having seen enough of the results of autonomy and imagination with Adam and Eve, and dull obedience in the shape of the dutiful Noah, God tried once more to infiltrate humanity by seeking a solitary man whose history he could control and develop. Abraham was his chosen one. But accidents happen, unforeseen consequences of best-laid plans. Not even God, it appears, is exempt from jealousy. When the Lord made his final creation on earth, love came along for the ride and caused havoc, even to the creator himself. Between the way of the world and the way of love, no one is safe.

Novelist Jenny Diski examines the story of the lifelong love of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis chapters 11 to 22) and, with subversive wit and intelligence, she recasts their story as the first love triangle – between a man, his wife and the voice of God. In this marriage there was always a third.

As the Creator and the barren wife wage war, they struggle not only over the affections of Abraham, and control of posterity, but the very notion of truth and storytelling. This brilliant, bit-ter-comic love story asks awkward questions about the nature of love and faith, and incidentally throws new light on the motivations of God …

'Irony at its driest … succeeds remarkably in bringing to life one of the world's first great family sagas'

'A hugely engaging and entertaining book that dares to question truth, storytelling and even the Lord God'

'Excellent, sexy novel ... this book delves into all kinds of byways – infertility, obedience, autonomy in a relationship – with wit and intelligence'

'Both intimate and ambitious – not only human, but also divine'

only human by jenny diski

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After These Things

(Virago, 2001)

A sequel to Jenny Diski's novel Only Human and continuing with her narration of the story of the Patriarchs in the Book of Genesis, After These Things is an account of the relationship between Abraham's tragic son Isaac and Isaac's son Jacob. The book follows the psychological trail of the children of Abraham, the first properly constituted family and finds that like all families, their story is structured by wishes and fears. In Isaac and Jacob's relationship we see all the com-plexities of love, power, desire that make them quintessentially human.

The inimitable Jenny Diski tells this ancient story anew, with the deliciously subversive wit and intelligence readers have come to expect from this wonderfully surprising writer.

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Nothing Natural

(1986, reprinted Virago 2003)

An addictive story of a dangerous love affair with a shocking denoument, this is a complex examination of the relations between the sexes at their most combatative and collusive. It is a clever book with much to tell us about the nature of desire and what should or should not be permissable.

'An outstandingly well-written novel.'

'She writes with an admirable lack of sensationalism about a difficult subject…an honest and startling look at the angry face of sex.'

'Chillingly clever.'

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The Dream Mistress

(Phoenix 1996)

When Mimi discovered an unconscious bag lady huddled behind a London cinema a sense of duty prompted her to call an ambulance. It was only later that she wondered if the tramp, who could have been anybody, might not have been somebody after all. Could she be Leah, Mimi’s abandoned and abandoning mother? Or perhaps she was Bella, a surgically reconstructed bomb blast victim? Then again, she could have been the perverse and reclusive nun, gifted with terrible, miraculous powers.

'Energized by erotic unexpected unfolding into profound and magical lyricism...made me long for more.' INDEPENDENT

‘ A complex dream of a book…Jenny Diski is a remarkable writer.’

‘ Superb…[Diski] explores, in fine, lucid prose, vivid fragments of Bella and Mimi’s odd, alienated lives.’ NEW STATESMAN

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Then Again

(1990, reprinted Granta 1998)

A powerful novel exploring the nature of belief, the boundaries between madness and san-ity, revelation and delusion, and good and evil.

‘ Radiates confidence in its own ability to turn difficult ideas into pacy, accessible fiction.’

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The Vanishing Princess

(Phoenix 1995)

An obsession with baths…An expectation of infidelity…A tube suicide…A liaison with Rumplestiltskin…A foxtrot in the Bin

‘ Her short stories life and examine concepts from all sides, delivering fresh, inventive ob-servations, and putting an ironic spin on the familiar.’

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Monkey’s Uncle

(Phoenix, 1994)

In early January, Charlotte FitzRoy went mad. She was surprised to find that while part of her was now in mental hospital, part of her had taken off to an alternative wonderland – a bizarre internal world where she makes friends with Jenny, a highly-opinionated orang utan, converses with Marx, Freud and Darwin, and observes Robert FitzRoy, the captain of the Beagle and a man whose obsessions strangely mirror Charlotte’s own.

'Stands alone…for its daring assault on the boundaries of fiction…stunning’

‘Bold and original…the auther can stab you with moments of poignancy that linger long in the mind.’

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Happily Ever After

(Penguin 1991)

The mad old woman in Liam’s attic was once a tormented child, then the precocious darling of the literary world, before becoming a suicidal drunk. Now, at the age of sixty-eight, Daphne Drummond has decided finally to be happy in spite of the strange noises she hears coming form the cupboard under the stairs. She will do it by winning the love of reluctant Liam, currently awash with whisky and sexual fantasies about his wayward young wife, and by writing a new novel called Happily Ever After that will put her name back on the literary map But happily ever after looks unlikely for Sylvie, the hopeless, helpless lodger on the ground floor, and her angry, insecure daughter, Divya. Divya and Daphne recognise they have much in common, but Daphne discovers that she must choose between old sorrows and her newfound, vibrant happiness.

‘Compassionate, amused, detached and ironic by turns, Jenny Diski is a writer of consider-able accomplishment.’

‘Diski’s magic lies in her ability to make eccentricity seem normal and bizarre both at the same time. She combines a close sympathy for even her maddest characters with a cool and ironic detachment.’

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(Penguin 1987)

Mo’s life as an anthropologist in London is safe, orderly and stain-free. Why should a research trip to the rainforest in Borneo threaten her cool view of the world. The powerful story of a woman compelled to confront chaos.

‘Jenny Diski focuses with razor-sharp perception upon the way in which sexual obsession can triumph over reason…a gripping, provocative novel.’

‘Great precision and power…a tough exploration of solitude and sexual need...When I put the book down I needed air; I’d been horribly gripped.’ New Statesman