Published by Virago Press (UK) on 2014
'This strange and brilliant book recounts Jenny Diski's journey to Antarctica last year, intercut with another journey into her own heart and soul...a book of dazzling variety, which weaves disquisitions on indolence, truth, inconsistency, ambiguousness, the elephant seal, Shackleton, boredom and over and over again memory, into a sparse narrative, caustic observation and vivid description of the natural world. While Diski's writing is laconic, her images are haunting.' Elspeth Barker, Independent on Sunday
There are suicide warnings and child abuse warnings for this book.
Diski pulls no punches in this book. As we wander through the pages it feels as if we’re being pulled from pillar to post, from one parental problem to another as she unveils her childhood. It’s as if things couldn’t have been any worse for her as a child and then she tells us something that was worse. I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming, her parents really weren’t suitable as parents and shouldn’t have even been together in the first place. Reading this book makes me wonder if someone has done a study on the genetics of depression and if two people with depression have children what would be the effect on the child. They could start by reading this book and then talking to Diski’s daughter, but not to Diski herself as she died of cancer in 2016.
I loved the imagery, I loved how Diski loved being in an all white room and was travelling to Antarctica on a boat with very little in the way of decoration inside her stateroom. Anyone else would call it stark and been upset and intimidated by it but instead her description was ‘nine foot by seven and a half foot of wish-fulfilment.’ And then we get a proper description of it culminating in ‘White, all white…It was a monk’s cell.’ She celebrates this quite as much as someone would moan about the same lack of features. Who else would then celebrate Antarctica as the getaway to end all getaways, white, featureless and devoid of people except for the other tourists from the boat.
It is distressing as she uncovers that both of her parents and herself have attempted suicide. And she reveals how her parents abused her both emotionally and sexually. Somehow she manages to get through all of this and even have a marriage successful enough to have a daughter. From what little we see of her daughter it seems as if she is far more balanced than Diski and that is something I feel Diski celebrates.
For those of you who have seen the warnings at the top of the page and still want to read it I strongly suggest it. It is very nicely written with flashbacks to her childhood and then back again to the journey towards Antarctica. Here’s the affiliate link for you. I do appreciate whoever clicked on the link the other day, I get the warm fuzzies every time I look at it.