Things I Don't Want to Know: A Response to George Orwell's Why I Write Hardcover – 20 May 2013
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'Levy's strength is her originality of thought and expression.' --Jeanette Winterson
About the Author
Deborah Levy trained at Dartington College of Arts, leaving in 1981 to write a number of plays, highly acclaimed for their "intellectual rigour, poetic fantasy and visual imagination". She wrote and published her first novel Beautiful Mutants, when she was 27 years old. The experience of not having to give her words to a director, actors and designer to interpret was so exhilarating, she wrote a few more. Her recent novel, Swimming Home, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012. Levy has just published Black Vodka: Ten Stories with And Other Stories.
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Top Customer Reviews
From the first sentence I was reminded how much I love Levy's prose: "That spring when life was very hard and I was at war with my lot and simply couldn't see where there was to get to, I seemed to cry most on escalators at train stations." From this position of despair Levy travels to Majorca to write, at the same time being impelled to think back to her childhood in apartheid South Africa (where there are a multitude of things she doesn't want to know) and her later 'exile' in seventies England.
"Things I don't want to Know" is an invigorating read which is perceptive, funny, and also angry. At the centre is Levy, an almost mute child being exhorted by all around her to speak louder. It is in writing that she finally gets to use and control her voice.
It was a pretty different book I thought to Orwell's but I do think that Levy achieved the sort of combination of reflection and politics as a response to living/experiential consequence and as a lived experience. Most of all the style of writing resembles Orwell's being plain but also compellingly readable, it is a real page turner.
The chapter seeking to draw out the politics is weaker, I thought, than others, with citation quotations from feminists and musings upon differences in class or culture among mums waiting in a playground.
Although, it would be unfair to make too close a comparison between Levy and Orwell in this respect, Levy lives in our largely apolitical or unpolitical world, great culture shifts and shocks have taken place in the years between one author and another, much of political language has changed beyond anything Orwell would recognise, where it arises at all (Orwell collected pamphlets and worked in book stores, reading and often political manifestos were the preoccupation of many in the pre-television age, when radio was only beginning to become a mass media even).
These political reflections, and I'd guess or suggest a measure of alienation, are what Levy begins with, then taking a trip or retreat to Majorca she meets interesting local characters and embarks upon a reminiscence about a life in apartheid africa and then exile to seventies england.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amusing, witty delightful book; like reading a diary of events and times you wish you had written yourself. A great read I would recommend with five stars!Published on 20 Mar. 2014 by Gill