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Jenny Diski didn’t fight cancer but she found a way to transcend it.


She was so thoroughly a writer that in 2014, when she was told that she had, if she were lucky, three years to live, her initial response was to consider it a literary challenge. How could she write about cancer without falling into banality?

“And then the weariness,” she wrote in The London Review of Books. “A fucking cancer diary? Another fucking cancer diary. I think back to cancer diaries I have read, just because they’re there.” But Dinski didn’t write just another cancer diary. What she wrote, which was serialized in the LRB, was jaunty, fearless, sharp-eyed, and, like all her writing, utterly original.

In that same entry she wrote: “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.” If she didn’t fight cancer, she found a way to transcend it with her words.

As she told The Observer, “Nobody is better at having cancer than me, in the sense that I like nothing more than sitting on the sofa doing fuck all and trying to write.” She was right. RIP.