The art of living

By Havi Carel



Published by Acumen Publishing

Shortlist 2009

Havi Carel is a philosopher, lecturer and writer. She is also one of only 120 women in the UK to suffer from the potentially life-threatening illness, lymphangio-leiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare lung disease. In this book, she looks at how illness is not just a physiological dysfunction, but a state which encompasses the entire person, body and mind. She shows how the use of language, in defining illness, is limiting and misleading and challenges us to become more thoughtful.

On diagnosis, in 2006, Havi was told that life expectancy was approximately ten years. Since then, her life has changed beyond recognition and yet, at the same time, has remained the same. Despite being young and healthy looking, she has had to reinvent her life, rethink her aspirations and plans and, more than anything, learn to love the life she has.

While 'Illness', a unique and often moving book, is founded on Havi's experience of living with a degenerative illness, it was her training as a philosopher that pushed her to reflect more generally on the nature of health and illness. Havi explores illness by weaving together the personal story of her own illness with the insights drawn from her work as a philosopher. Too often illness is viewed as a localised biological dysfunction while ignoring the actual experience of the ill person, her fears, her hopes, the way she interacts with others and, ultimately, experiences life. This neglected dimension is the focus of this book. Havi shows how illness is a life-changing process rather than a limited physiological problem.

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