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.
"A lively, vivid account of how the most innocent details of a writer's personal story can gain power in fiction."—The New York Times Book Review
"I find myself utterly captivated by Deborah Levy's Things I Don't Want to Know: On Writing, a profound and vivid little volume that is less about the craft than the necessity of making literature."—Los Angeles Times
"Levy successfully weaves historical, political, and personal threads together to form a nuanced account of her life and why she writes. Her graceful memoir/essay emphasizes a woman's need to speak out even if she has to use a quiet voice. For feminists and memoir enthusiasts."—Library Journal
"Few essayists have the courage and talent to go head-to-head with George Orwell. Deborah Levy's response to Orwell's iconic piece 'Why I Write' is at once a feminist call to arms, a touching memoir of small moments, and a guide to writing fiction from one of literature's bravest rulebreakers."—Barnes & Noble Review