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Jenny Diski

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Jenny Diski died early this morning. ‘Under no circumstances is anyone to say that I lost a battle with cancer,’ she wrote in the LRB in September 2014. ‘Or that I bore it bravely. I am not fighting, losing, winning or bearing.’ Her first piece for the LRB, a Diary, appeared in May 1992. In all she wrote 150 pieces for the paper (and 65 blog posts), the last of them in February this year:

For several days now I’ve been feeling as if I’m on a holiday, a short one coming to its end. Not an especially good one. Not sorry to be leaving, not sorry to have been here. No particular feeling one way or another. Not living in my place. Not familiar enough. As one might sit on the edge of a chair that is waiting for another occupant to take it over. It’s the strangest of strange feelings. Best travelling clothes, a ticking of a clock that will go on ticking after you leave and after the next occupant too.


  1. sol_adelman says:

    Saddening news. A very fine, entertaining writer who often caused me to laugh out loud. RIP

  2. semitone says:

    Very sad news, and my condolences to all at the lrb for losing a colleague who I reckon must have been pretty fun to have around.

  3. Colin says:

    That’s very sad, though no-one who was paying any attention could claim they didn’t know it was coming! I just hope her last days were spent in peace. She was a writer who made a mark & who I’ve missed since her last piece, guessing that force majeure had overcome her.

  4. ANelson says:

    She will be greatly missed by many Americans.Her work remains.What else to say?

  5. deMan says:

    Now she knows the answers to those questions she asked. Or she doesn’t know, because there is no knowing.

  6. Fred Louder says:

    The inimitable
    Alas! delimited
    Archives, alack!
    not quite lives

  7. John G Stewart says:

    She won the battle with life — what pleasure she gave to all of us with her words and thoughts.

  8. Dean Alexander Coulter says:

    I am very thankful for Jenny Diski’s life and work.

    With metta, DAC

  9. sandy noyes says:

    What one obit today in America [nytimes 4.30.16] misses is that she was very funny, and a master of surprise: switches of tone and bursts of sudden intensity. –like during her occasional walk over to visit Dorris Lessing not too long ago. She was eloquent in in extremis situations. Mordant, as the nyt says, but quietly hilarious and wise too. She was the doyenne of emotional intelligence, i thought. That’s how i knew her, in LRB. –and right up to February, still funny/ironic. Nobody ever wrote like Jenny.

  10. sandy noyes says:

    addendum: I also think Jenny had a special gift for conveying nuanced feeling tones, in an apparently nonverbal undercurrent to her printed words. She could be so electrifying too that my heart would skip beats. I knew it was going to be an experiential event to read one of her essays. Some philosophers say “qualia” is not even possible to communicate person to person, it’s too private and ineffable. But no such barrier existed for Jenny Diski. It seemed that being that astonishingly open without fear was what her writing was about.

  11. soumitrag says:

    I have never read Jenny Diski nor heard about her writing before I discovered her in the pages of LRB. Since then, I have read her at best sporadically: she always seemed too autobiographical for my lliking. But then she started writing about her disease, and her imminent death. Can this be true, I asked myself. How could someone chronicle her death with such uncanny precision, detail it so meticulously. Surely something is wrong-either she would recover or this is some kind of weird fiction-making.

    Then Jenny Diski died and here I am, feeling inexplicably, hopelessly sad. One who could write of her own death with so much courage deserved not to die. Such courage deserves waves, walls of silence.

    I should stop blabbering.

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