Skip to main content
US Macmillan Tradebooks for Courses

Things I Don't Want to Know

On Writing

Deborah Levy

Bloomsbury Publishing

Things I Don't Want to Know Download image

ISBN10: 163557224X
ISBN13: 9781635572247


128 Pages


Request Desk Copy
Request Exam Copy


Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.

Sign up now

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.


Praise for Things I Don't Want to Know

"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

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy, FRSL, writes fiction, plays, and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, widely broadcast on the BBC, and translated into fourteen languages. The author of highly praised novels, including Hot Milk and Swimming Home (both Man Booker Prize finalists), The Unloved, and Billy and Girl, and the story collection Black Vodka, she lives in London.