Only Human: A Comedy by Jenny Diski - review by Michele Roberts

Michele Roberts

Bible Amply Fleshed

Only Human: A Comedy


Virago 215pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

The story of Sarah and Abraham in the Old Testament might seem familiar to anyone brought up on Bible stories, but Jenny Diski makes it convincingly strange and new. She takes the bare bones of the story so laconically related in the original version, and clothes them with ample flesh. Writers have been fascinated by the Bible as literature for a very long time, of course. The tradition of inspired rewriting nourishes each new generation of myth–makers. Diski's version of the old story is enriched by those that have gone before, but it is worth noting that the Sarah story has not in fact been often retold. Diski is on fertile ground.

One pitfall in this kind of fiction concerns scene–setting. How to avoid echoes of The Sheik or The Ten Commandments? Diski solves the problem triumphantly by siting her action mainly in the imagination of her chief character, here called Sarai, and in the mind of the God who created her. Their two voices intercut

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