WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR NONFICTION 2020
WINNER OF THE WINDHAM-CAMPBELL PRIZE FOR NONFICTION 2020
FINALIST FOR THE PEN / JEAN STEIN BOOK AWARD 2020
'Profound and unforgettable' Sally Rooney
'A classic . . . I have long thought of Boyer as a genius' Patricia Lockwood
'An outraged, beautiful, and brilliant work of embodied critique' Ben Lerner
'Some of the most perceptive and beautiful writing about illness and pain that I have ever read' Hari Kunzru
Blending memoir with critique, an award-winning poet and essayist's devastating exploration of sickness and health, cancer and the cancer industry, in the modern world
A week after her 41st birthday, Anne Boyer was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. For a single mother living payslip to payslip, the condition was both a crisis and an initiation into new ideas about mortality and the gendered politics of illness.
In The Undying - at once her harrowing memoir of survival, and a 21st-century Illness as Metaphor - Boyer draws on sources from ancient Roman dream diarists to cancer vloggers to explore the experience of illness. She investigates the quackeries, casualties and ecological costs of cancer under capitalism, and dives into the long line of women writing about their own illnesses and deaths, among them Audre Lorde, Kathy Acker and Susan Sontag.
Genre-bending, devastating and profoundly humane, The Undying is an unmissably insightful meditation on cancer, the cancer industry and the sicknesses and glories of contemporary life.
Poet Boyer (Garments Against Women) returns with a beautiful memoir about her battle with breast cancer. The book covers Boyer's 2014 diagnosis at age 41, her grueling chemotherapy treatments, and her double mastectomy, delving into the fear, suffering, and loneliness that cancer brings. Cancer makes "the boundaries of our bodies break," Boyer writes. "Everything we were supposed to keep inside of us now seems to fall out.... We can't stop crying. We emit foul odors. We throw up." Boyer criticizes the "capitalist medical universe" in which women are given "drive-through mastectomies," and she puts into sharp focus the economic toll cancer takes on women of limited means. A single mother with no savings, Boyer had to return to her teaching job 10 days after her surgery because her medical leave had run out; she was so weak that friends had to carry her books. This memoir lays bare Boyer's pain and exhaustion and is stacked with revelatory observations: "There is no more tragic piece of furniture than a bed," she writes, "how it falls so quickly from the place we make love to the place we might die in." Boyer's gorgeous language elevates this artful, piercing narrative well above the average medical memoir.