Stephanie de Montalk

How Does It Hurt?


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November 2014


Hardback, 210 x 138mm
360 pages

It was pelvic pain and it started slowly in November 2003, two weeks after a fall. I slipped on the marble bathroom floor of a Warsaw hotel and bounced off the sharp edge of the bath, breaking three ribs on the lower left side. The pain was intermittent at first. It was also familiar. . . .

In How Does It Hurt?, acclaimed poet and biographer Stephanie de Montalk tells the story of the chronic pain that has invaded her life for more than ten years. She considers how her early experiences have been cast into fresh relief by what she has endured, then goes back in time to investigate the lives and works of three writers who also lived with and wrote about pain: ‘the consolator’, English social theorist Harriet Martineau (1802–1876), ‘the vendor of happiness’, French novelist Alphonse Daudet (1840–1897), and ‘the imago’, Polish poet Aleksander Wat (1900–1967). Through these explorations De Montalk confronts the paradox of writing about suffering: where we can turn when the pain is beyond words?

A unique blend of memoir, imaginative biography and poetry, How Does It Hurt? is a groundbreaking contribution to the understanding of chronic pain, and a spellbinding literary achievement.

‘This is a wonderfully powerful, important, and beautiful piece of work which makes a major contribution to the understanding of the subject of pain. The success of the project lies in the fact that the author illuminates the ugly problem of pain, from so many angles, using so many light sources, with such beauty.’ 
—Mike Hanne, author of The Power of the Story: Fiction and Political Change

'How Does It Hurt? reminds us that some of the most notable and innovative intellectual and artistic figures were people with disabilities – and that the history of creativity and the history of living with suffering are inextricably intertwined. Stephanie de Montalk's own contribution is a riveting and compelling read.’ 
—Martha Stoddard Holmes, author of Fictions of Affliction: Physical Disability in Victorian Culture

Cover: Unklefranc

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