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Submitted Literature

Nothing Natural

By Jenny Diski


  “Nothing Natural” focuses on issues of sexuality, sexual obsession, masochism, and depression.  A controversially received text on its release, the narrative contains descriptions of depression that may well reflect Diski’s personal battles, so acutely are they portrayed.

Key Themes:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

186 – “The effort of getting the tin of cat food from the fridge and spooning some into his bowl was ridiculous.  Every movement, every second an impossible demand on her resources.  Inside her head she screamed, I’ve got to stop, I can’t do this, it’s not intolerable, but finally done, it was an achievement, and a great sense of relief spread over her.  Nothing else.  Nothing.  She pulled off her boots, closed the bedroom curtains and lay on the bed.

Here it was again.  Unmistakeably it.  She remembered depression through her fear of it, felt it lurking, knew it had happened before and could happen again, but when it came, when it felt so precisely asit felt, she was always taken by surprise.  It was like malaria, you have a fever.  Sometimes when you have a cold you wonder if you don’t have flu, but when you have flu you don’t wonder at all.  Depression was as specific as that, an instantly recognisable condition as if a switch had been turned.  A physical pain in her diaphragm, a weight as if she had been filled with lead, the absurd difficulty of doing anything – automatic actions having to be thought out to be achieved: how do you get across the room, make the legs move, keep breathing, think carefully about it all.  An hour, two hours, all day spent trying to get the energy and will to perform some simple task, feed the cat, take a pee.  The unreasonable difficulty of everything made more unreasonable, more difficult knowing that nothing physical was wrong.  And the shocking despair in her head.

It was impossible to remember or describe the hopelessness, the absolute blackness that descended: the blackness was infinite, she was hopeless because there was nothing to hope for.  It was a shift in perspective; it wasn’t that she felt so bad that life seemed miserable, it was the falling away of a distorting rosy curtain that made life, most of the time, seem liveable.  In fact, it was not.  When she was depressed she saw what there was to see, and knew with complete certainty that what she saw was reality.  She knew the gauzes had to be there in order to stay alive but the times when they blew aside were when she was seeing things as they were.  Depression was an excess of reality: intolerable and unliveable.”  

Reference: Jenny, Diski. 1986. Nothing Natural. London: Virago, 2003


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 20th March 2009