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Submitted Literature

Then Again

By Jenny Diski


“Then, Again” is a multi-layered story focusing on notions of identity and doubling of themes.  The psychosis of young Katya is dealt with sensitively and thoughtfully, with Katya given voice in second section of book.  Through the rape of Katya after she runs away from home, issues of acute vulnerability are starkly presented.  Katya’s mother, herself struggling to cope with Katya’s illness, utilises artistic creativity as a way of managing fear, anxiety, confusion – the ceramic plates she creates are highly representative of her state of mind. 

Key Themes:

  • Carer Issues
  • Childhood / Adolescence
  • Creativity and Madness
  • Revealing Reads
  • Schizophrenia

Significant Quotes / Pages

46 – “The diagnoses ranged from anorexia nervosa to adolescent psychosis.  One consultant cut through the niceties and wrote ‘schizophrenia’ in his notes.  This was bold: both archaic and before it’s time.  No such thing as schizophrenia, some insisted; others, that schizophrenia was a biochemical disease, a genetic predisposition.  Before long, they would add, somewhat irrelevantly to Katya’s situation, we’ll be able to test for it in parent and foetus.

Generally, whatever the label offered, physiological causes were hinted at.  Hormone imbalance […] the mental effects of adolescent chemistry”

117 – “So she did know what her daughter was talking about.  But what she knew about it was that the human brain, given the right (or wrong) chemicals and conditions, could fabricate a world of mayhem, losing its capacity to draw lines around things, so that everything – yeah, everything, man! – flowed together.  And real and knowing were the words that sprang to mind to describe what was unreal and unknown, because, actually, people had the most tenuous hold on reality and knowledge, and got easily confused.  And God, in some rather vague, un-Jehovah-like Eastern formulation, was as often as not invoked, because utter strangeness was terrifying to a basically order-making creature, and divinity was needed to evaluate the disturbing fact that, when frazzled, the brain short circuited and made a complete mess of the world the body had to live in.”


202 – “Oh, I suppose we opted for the right to be as mad as a hatter, but we didn’t know what we were talking about.  We never took the pain into account.  Katya’s not thinking, she’s off her head.  She’s dangerously mad, and someone’s got to do something.  She’s hurting herself, she’s suicidal.  She thinks she’s the Devil and she ought to die.  Do I let her go on thinking that, and being in hell, or do I let her have drugs that take the terrible thoughts away?”

Reference: Jenny, Diski. 1990. Then Again. London: Vintage, 1991


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