Things I Don't Want to Know

Things I Don't Want to Know

On Writing

Book - 2014
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To be published simultaneously with Black Vodka , the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted writer's new collection of short stories, a shimmering jewel of a book about writing.

Blending personal history, gender politics, philosophy, and literary theory into a luminescent treatise on writing, love, and loss, Things I Don't Want to Know is Deborah Levy's witty response to George Orwell's influential essay "Why I Write." Orwell identified four reasons he was driven to hammer at his typewriter-political purpose, historical impulse, sheer egoism, and aesthetic enthusiasm-and Levy's newest work riffs on these same commitments from a female writer's perspective.

As she struggles to balance womanhood, motherhood, and her writing career, Levy identifies some of the real-life experiences that have shaped her novels, including her family's emigration from South Africa in the era of apartheid; her teenage years in the UK where she played at being a writer in the company of builders and bus drivers in cheap diners; and her theater-writing days touring Poland in the midst of Eastern Europe's economic crisis, where she observed how a soldier tenderly kissed the women in his life goodbye.

Spanning continents (Africa and Europe) and decades (we meet the author at seven, fifteen, and fifty), Things I Don't Want to Know brings the reader into a writer's heart.

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury, 2014, c2013.
ISBN: 9781620405659
Branch Call Number: 828.914 LEVY D
Characteristics: 111 pages ; 21 cm.
Alternative Title: Things I do not want to know


From the critics

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Jan 16, 2020

This is the first book in Levy's "Living Autobiography", written in her 40s. It covers her young life in South Africa and immigration to the UK. Interesting and enjoyable.

Dec 03, 2019

I enjoyed the beginning and ending more than the middle reminiscence. Some lovely thought-provoking musing at the intersection of being female and being a writer in our current culture: "The notebook... It would probably be more romantic to describe it as "my journal", or "my diary", but I thought of it as a "notebook", perhaps even a sheriff's notebook because I was always gathering evidence for something I could not fathom." "To speak up is not about speaking louder, it is about feeling entitled to voice a wish." "What do we do with the knowledge that we cannot bear to live with? What do we do with the things we do not want to know?" "A female writer cannot afford to feel her life too clearly. If she does, she will write in a rage when she should write calmly."

Sep 10, 2019

No ebook

May 09, 2019

A very slight book. For fans of the author.

Aug 05, 2018

Reading this book was the best use of my afternoon yesterday. I just drenched myself in such a tender South African childhood, bookended by a haunting retreat in Mallorca. Writers are, it appears from this memoir and several I've read recently, children who don't have a voice as children, who can't speak up for themselves when they're young, so they grow up to write so deeply and sensitively and fully as adults.

Selfishly, since this isn't a thick, big, long book, if I could have my way, I'd want to read about five of these memoirs from this one author, addressing her one life. There is so much material in between being small in apartheid South Africa and being a teenager in London, from a jailed father to a broken family with lids missing on everything in the kitchen. The details, the language, the history, the way the structure is so circular and yet so straightforward, and the emotion above all, all without knowing the details of why the author can't deal with escalators going up.

Mar 13, 2017

This is a gem. I love Deborah Levy' writing style and this, I would call it a memoir, gives an opportunity to look into her growth as a fabulous writer. I also appreciate her candid account of her childhood and sharing with us many fascinating and personal details about it. She was a very talented little girl with a very interesting perception of this complicated world.


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