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The first in Deborah Levy's essential three-part 'Living Autobiography' on writing and womanhood.
'Unmissable. Like chancing upon an oasis, you want to drink it slowly . . . Subtle, unpredictable, surprising' Guardian
Taking George Orwell's famous essay, 'Why I Write', as a jumping-off point, Deborah Levy offers her own indispensable reflections of the writing life. With wit, clarity and calm brilliance, she considers how the writer must stake claim to that contested territory as a young woman and shape it to her need.
Things I Don't Want to Know is a work of dazzling insight and deep psychological succour, from one of our most vital contemporary writers.
The final two instalments in Deborah Levy's 'Living Autobiography', The Cost of Living and Real Estate, are available now.
'Superb sharpness and originality of imagination. An inspiring work of writing' Marina Warner
'An exciting writer, sharp and shocking as the knives her characters wield' Sunday Times
'A writer whose anger and confusion in the face of the world transform into poetic flights of fancy . . . which always feel marvellously right' Independent
Author of the Man Booker Prize shortlisted Swimming Home offers a slim, nuanced autobiography that addresses Orwell's timeless question of "Why I Write" from a woman's perspective. Levy begins with a trip to Majorca on which she mysteriously packs one of her old notebooks, labeled "POLAND 1988", not knowing why she has brought it with her. The incident prompts Levy to recall how she used Polish menus from the notebook in her acclaimed novel, "in which the cabin crew on LOT airlines had morphed into nurses from Odessa." The memoir's project becomes evident in Levy's precise methods of showing how unrelated incidents from her life and experience become fodder, through the subconscious mind's unknowable alchemy, for her fiction. The precise, visceral scenes soon give way to a more philosophical tone as Levy sets about to deconstruct and analyze what it means to be a woman writer, quoting such luminaries as Adrienne Rich and Marguerite Duras. Her South African childhood, her father's abduction, and the family's later expatriation to England form the remainder of the slender memoir's narrative, and she continues to link lived experience to her development and process as a writer. Particularly fond of greasy spoon restaurants in England, she begins to write as a teenager inside their "steamed up windows and haze of cigarette smoke," a "sense of urgency accelerated." At these junctures, in which Levy explores the consciousness and central questions of a writer ("I was convinced there was another sort of life waiting for me"), this dreamlike book of ideas and memories displays its greatest strengths.