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Author: Xi Xi Zhu 西西
Translated by: Jennifer Feeley

Mourning a Breast (Releases on July 9, 2024.)

Mourning a Breast (Releases on July 9, 2024.)

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This title will be released on July 9, 2024.

By Xi Xi, part of the first generation of writers raised in Hong Kong, a wise and amiably written book of autobiographical fiction on the author’s experience with breast cancer—from diagnosis to treatment to recovery—and her passage from a life lived through the mind into a life lived through the body.

In 1989, the Hong Kong cult classic writer Xi Xi was diagnosed with breast cancer and began writing in order to make sense of her diagnosis and treatment. Mourning a Breast, published two and a half years later, is a disarmingly honest and deeply personal account of the author’s experience of a mastectomy and of her subsequent recovery.

The book opens with her gently rolling up a swimsuit. A beginning swimmer, she loves going to the pool, eavesdropping on conversations in the changing room, shopping for swimsuits. As this routine pleasure 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. In a conversational, even humorous, manner, she describes her previous blinkered life of the mind before she came into her body and learned its language.


Addressing her reader as frankly and unashamedly as an old friend, she coaxes and confesses, confronts society’s failings, and advocates for a universal literacy of the body. Mourning a Breast was heralded as the first Chinese language book to cast off the stigma of writing about illness and to expose the myths associated with breast cancer. A radical and generous book about creating in the midst of mourning.
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Editorial Reviews

“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

About the Author

Xi Xi (1937–2022) was born in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong in 1950. Over the course of her career, she wrote several books of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, as well as numerous screenplays and newspaper and magazine columns. In 2019, she became the first writer from Hong Kong to win Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, and her literary career was the subject of the 2015 documentary film My City. Upon its initial publication in Taiwan in 1992, Mourning a Breast was named by the China Times as one of the best ten books of the year.

Jennifer Feeley is the translator of Xi Xi’sMourning a Breast, Not Written Words: Selected Poetry of Xi Xi, andCarnival of Animals: Xi Xi’s Animal Poems, as well as Chen Jiatong’s White Fox series and Wong Yi's Cantonese chamber opera librettoWomen Like Us. Her forthcoming translations include Lau Yee-Wa'sTongue less and Xi Xi'sMy City. She is the recipient of the 2017 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize and a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship.

西 西 


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