Deborah Levy – to be “gentle but not fragile”

On October 11, 2022 member Elaine B. presented on playwright and author Deborah Levy. As an exiled South African living in the UK and as a daughter with an absent father, Levy has felt as an outsider both in South Africa and in England.

Deborah Levy, who is now 63, started her literary career early, working as a writer with a travelling theatrical group – editing scripts on the fly to meet cast and director needs. Later, she wrote her own plays, poetry, non-fiction and fiction. Two of her plays dramatize famous cases of the psychoanalyst Freud, whose work is an influence for the author.

Elaine gave readings and commentary on Levy’s auto-fiction trilogy, consisting of Things I Don’t Want to Know, The Cost of Living, and Real Estate. These books explore the difficult and emotionally messy business of being an outsider, a lonely child, an author, a wife, an ex-wife, a mother and a daughter to dying mother. The trilogy ends with hope that women can find a warm home in the world. Elaine particularly liked The Cost of Living, wherein life is described as speeding up after 50, with end of a marriage and the death of a parent.

Elaine next gave a brief reading from Black Vodka – a collection of Levy’s short stories. Elaine described these works as stories about desire and death.

Levy’s focus on a childhood with an absent father, on shame, on death and on desire show the influence of Freud, who she describes as an artist as well as a doctor. Elaine allowed Ms. Levy to explain this herself, playing a video of Deborah Levy from the Singapore Writers Festival (2015).

In summary, Elaine gave us an author who uses her own experiences to express the complex world of living as a woman in the last 63 years, being “gentle but not fragile”.

Next week, we welcome guest speaker Leah Horlick, Canadian Writer in Residence, Calgary Distinguished Writer’s Program, University of Calgary.

Interested in joining us? Click here.

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