Skip to main content

Things I Don't Want to Know

On Writing

Deborah Levy


List Price: 16.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (6/10/2014)


A shimmering jewel of a book about writing from two-time Booker Prize finalist Deborah Levy, to publish alongside her new work of nonfiction, The Cost of Living.

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 writer 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: On Writing

"A lively, vivid account of how the most innocent details of a writer's personal story can gain power in fiction." - New York Times Book Review

"Profound." - Los Angeles Times

"[Levy] is a skilled wordsmith and creates an array of intense emotions and moods in precise, controlled prose." - The Independent (UK)

"A vivid, striking account of a writer's life." - The Spectator (UK)

"Powerful." - New Statesman (UK)

"An up-to-date version of 'A Room of One’s Own', and, like the Virginia Woolf essay, I suspect it will be quoted for many years to come." - Irish Examiner

"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

"Rather than, say, telling the reader to show rather than tell, [Levy] declines to tell us anything and then shows us a great deal. What results is much more valuable than any literal writing guide or any literal response to Orwell would have been. It certainly has greater political import." - Biographile

"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

Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635572247, 128pp.

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

About the Author

Deborah Levy trained at Dartington College of Arts before becoming a playwright. Her plays include Pax, Heresies, Clam, Call Blue Jane, Shiny Nylon, Honey Baby Middle England, Pushing the Prince into Denmark and Macbeth-False Memories. She has also written some novels and was a Fellow in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1989-1991.