Jenny Diski Biography
(1947– ), Nothing Natural, Rain-forest, Like Mother, Then Again, Happily Ever After
British novelist of Jewish descent, born in London. After being in institutional care when she was 14, she lived for four years with the novelist Doris Lessing. In her early years she spent periods in psychiatric hospitals but subsequently trained as a teacher, and taught for five years before studying anthropology as a mature student. Her first novel, Nothing Natural (1986), a disturbing study of a sado-masochistic relationship, was followed by Rain-forest (1987), in which a woman anthropologist journeys to the Malayan jungle in order to discover that civilization is only skin deep. The novel displayed her interest in the darker areas of the human psyche, which is also evident in her next novel, Like Mother (1989), a dialogue between a woman and her anencephalic baby. Then Again (1990) explores the Jewish past through the consciousness of Esther, an artist specializing in ceramics, and her disturbed teenage daughter. Happily Ever After (1991) concerns the love affair between Liam, a married, middle-aged alcoholic, and Daphne, an elderly woman who lives in the same building. As with all Diski's work, the novel explores the borderline between sanity and madness as well as the extremes of cruelty of which people are capable.