People everywhere have found themselves faced with a global pandemic, during which we have learned to cope with sickness and all that accompanies it: isolation, immunity, loss of control, and recovery. Yet while no longer taboo, illness remains an unpopular theme in literature.
In her essay On Being Ill Virginia Woolf asks whether illness should not receive more literary attention, taking its place alongside the recurring themes of “love, battle and jealousy”.
The subtle complexities of Woolf’s essay will no doubt continue to be resonant for a new generation of readers today. In this collaborative volume, authors, translators and illustrators have come together from Great Britain, Ireland, the United States and the Netherlands to represent past, present and future thinking about illness.
Noteworthy contributions to this edition are Deryn Rees-Jones’ preface to Woolf’s essay from 1926 and the introduction to Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals of 1980. Against these, the voices of contemporary authors resonate as they contemplate the interactions between sickness and literature.
Readers are able to begin the book at the end, or might happily start in the middle, as every contribution is a unique, personal piece which offers poignant observations of the world of illness from within. Writing, as well as reading, about illness, is a form of love.
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