One of my all-time favourite writers of fiction is Jenny Diski. Who else has so ingeniously and variously mined the terrain of madness? In her ambitious and wickedly funny 1994 novel Monkey’s Uncle, perimenopausal Charlotte – a socialist feminist genetic technician – descends à la Alice in Wonderland to a curiously lucid dream world where she meets, among others, Marx, Freud and Darwin.
Karl, Sigmund and Charles (as these old men are introduced by Jenny, a witty, floral-frocked orang-utan also based on a historical ape) have cast long shadows on Charlotte’s prospects. And this trio loomed over my more recent stint at uni – a rather less lucid dream world I emerged from not just with a post-grad degree but a substantial degree of bemusement. For instance, why are post-Freudians pushed and post-Jungians wholly overlooked by the local literary academy? I could second-guess the secular leftist answer to that. But the halls of learning reveal conservatism: third-wave Jungian thought can be radical (as in going to the root or origin; innovative). Which seems to me to be a vital function of good fiction – it’s a medium of discovery (for the writer as much as the reader), not just a well-crafted vehicle geared to trends in publishing.