About Xi Xi’s Mourning a Breast
Xi Xi was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to receive chemotherapy after a surgery. Mourning a Breast was one of the first books in Chinese to explore the experiences of breast cancer patients. In December 1992, Mourning a Breast was selected as one of the Top Ten Books in the Book Review page of China Times. The book is currently being translated into English.
Excerpts from Mourning a Breast
“The body can speak. Its language includes both sounds and images, and its written words are the signs left on our bodies. We use EKGs, ultrasounds and X-ray fluoroscopies to locate evidence of these images. The body is remarkably adept at expressing its own language. Thanks to this ability, people are able to live longer than ever before. The majority of twentieth-century thinkers have been captivated by language more than any other topic, and unlocking the mystery of language has become the key to turning philosophy into a science. We are born with one mouth and two ears. As we continue to explicate ourselves, we need to listen more attentively, so that our mouths don’t become too puffed up while our ears atrophy with each passing day. The earth is an even larger body—isn’t it also giving off sign after sign? If we keep refusing to pay attention, sooner or later we’ll lose this ultimate body that that we call home.”
– Fiction/April 2018 (Issue 39) “The Body’s Language (From Mourning a Breast)” By Xi Xi, Translated by Jennifer Feeley. (Full article is available here.)
Xi Xi: Preface to Mourning a Breast
This is a book about breasts. Breasts are the subject matter, though I suppose the content may be different from what you’re envisioning. More than thirty months ago, on a bright summer day, after your narrator had been swimming without a care in the world, she stood in the shower of the pool changing room and found a small lump in her breast, no bigger than the size of a peanut. Soon after, it was confirmed to be breast cancer. This book tells the story of losing a breast. There are no poignant and fantastic characters or plots. If this isn’t the book you’re looking for, continue on, and good luck. However, I don’t intend to lose you, reader, so come on, why not buy a copy of Mourning a Breast, since in many ways, the two of you are actually quite closely connected?
Your author openly details her illness but doesn’t dare claim to be smashing any taboos, though this endeavor can be considered an act of self-help. The word “mourning” actually suggests that while we can’t undo the past, we can turn to the future and anticipate rebirth.
Critics’ views Mourning a Breast
Chan Yin-Ha: “Writing to Literalize Illness: Self-treatment in Mourning a Breast”
Mourning a Breast is the result of practicing what one preaches. As a patient, Xi Xi shares with her readers various reflections on the process of her treatment and life after becoming ill…
She uses writing as a means of self-treatment, externalizing her internal fears, doubts, and sorrows. Through the narrative, she achieves catharsis and purification. Meanwhile, through writing, she objectifies her illness, which is dissected, analyzed, and stripped of metaphor from a fixed distance, so that she finally can come to terms with it.
(Translations on this page are by Chen Yanyi and Jennifer Feeley)
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