Jenny Diski had a sad childhood a large part of which she spent in the psychiatric ward, which did not prevent her from living the life of a youth in the 60s London to the fullest: protesting, taking drugs, and getting culturally smart. Finally, Doris Lessing, a friend of her mother’s, took Jenny Diski in. Immersed in the literary atmosphere and finally able to get a proper education, Diski became a writer herself. And although she is less known than her Nobel prize winning mentor, Diski, who died in 2014, is a remarkable literary and political talent all of her own.
I am not a big fan of short stories in general: quite often it’s hard for me to beat the feeling that I’m reading a diary, or someone’s notes for an unfinished novel. Also, despite being a feminist activist, I do not have a specific affinity for feminist fiction: it is often too strongly on the nose. But Diski’s stories, a lot of which are based, I presume, given the coincidences, on her own life, are spectacular. And so so smart. It was easy for me to connect with the oddball female heroines who find it hard fitting into the society. Diski was able to convey a lot through the form, and managed to ceaselessly surprise me throughout the collection.
Also, in this collection I read the thing that’s kept reverberating in my mind since. “…he was an ass. Her husband and Thomas’ father was an ass: a fool who thought it funny to frighten a small child, who could not resist the small, mean act of betrayal that proved him more powerful than his four-year-old son.” Such a great quote on insecure men and patriarchy in general.
The Vanishing Princess: Stories by Jenny Diski
Published by Orion Publishing in 1995