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Mourning a Breast

Mourning a Breast

by Xi Xi, translated from the Chinese by Jennifer Feeley

Regular price $18.95
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In 1989, the acclaimed Hong Kong writer Xi Xi was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her semi-autobiographical novel Mourning a Breast is a disarmingly honest and inventive account of the author’s experience of a mastectomy and of her subsequent recovery. The book opens with her putting away a bathing suit. As the routine pleasure of swimming is revoked, the small loss stands in for the greater one. But Xi Xi’s mourning begins to take shape as a form of activism. Addressing her reader as frankly and unashamedly as an old friend, she describes what she is going through; finds consolation in art, literature, and cinema; and advocates for a universal literacy of the body. Mourning a Breast was heralded as one of the first Chinese-language books to cast off the stigma of writing about illness and to expose the myths associated with breast cancer. It is a radical novel about creating in the midst of mourning.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681378220
Pages: 320
Publication Date:


This superb work of autofiction from Xi Xi (1937–2022), which was originally published in 1992, melds an account of the author’s breast cancer with a reflection on the subjective nature of translation…. Xi Xi’s matter-of-fact prose and in-depth analysis are deeply satisfying. This is a must.
Publishers Weekly, starred review

Xi Xi’s fascinating imagination and brave avant-garde spirit make her an important and distinctive figure in last century’s Sinophone literature. Her knowledge, experience, and generosity offer unique humanitarian value to her writing. I highly recommend her.
—Mo Yan

The breast is the epicenter, where the complexities of society, literature, translation, personal care, history, art, and identity converge and transmute into a deeply felt and profoundly original narrative. Mourning A Breast is the story of Xi Xi's own experience, translated by Jennifer Feeley with precision and a subtle undertone of celebration, a generous invitation to navigate the depths of womanhood, of cancer, with humor and unflinching honesty.
—Xuan Juliana Wang

Mourning a Breast engages an innovative mix of writing drawn from multiple genres and disciplines, all centered on the exploration of an unwelcome sign—a tumor inside a breast. Xi Xi transports us from the technique of stitching skin to the process of splicing film for an experimental movie, and moves freely between her post-surgery feelings about her renovated bathroom and a public debate on the architectural design of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Xi Xi would be delighted to read Feeley’s attentive and even playful translation, especially given that translation is one of the book’s key motifs. A brilliant reader of her own illness, Xi Xi regards a literary work, a person’s body, and the earth itself in need of continuous translation and interpretation.
—Dorothy Tse

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