Deborah Levy

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UK | 2015

Deborah Levy trained at Dartington College of Arts leaving in 1981 to write a number of plays, highly acclaimed for their “intellectual rigour, poetic fantasy and visual imagination”, including PAX, CLAM, HERESIES for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and MACBETH-FALSE MEMORIES, all published in LEVY: PLAYS 1 (Methuen).

Deborah has written five novels: the ManBooker shortlisted, Swimming Home (& Other Stories/Faber), Beautiful Mutants, Swallowing Geography ( reissued by Penguin 2014 ) ) The Unloved (Penguin), Billy and Girl (Bloomsbury). Her 2012 short story collection, Black Vodka (& Other Stories) was short listed for The Frank O’Connor Award and the BBC International Short Story Award. Her long form essay, THINGS I DON’T WANT TO KNOW, a response to George Orwell’s 1946 essay WHY I WRITE (Penguin) and Virginia Woolf’s A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN is published in hard back by NottingHill Editions, paperback by Penguin.

For BBC Radio 4, Deborah wrote two acclaimed dramatisations of Freud’s most famous case studies, “Dora'” and “The Wolfman.” Deborah has lectured at The Freud Musuem, Goethe Institute, Serpentine Gallery, Tate Modern, The Henry Moore Foundation, The Royal Academy School. She was Fellow in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1989-1991, AHRB Fellow at The Royal College of Art 2006-9 where she taught screen writing in the Animation Department. She is currently Visiting Professor in Writing at Falmouth University.


When I arrived at Santa Maddelena, I thought I was at the end of the novel I was writing and that I would finish it in two weeks.

I set up my laptop in the elegant stone tower, made a pot of coffee and began. Yet as the first days passed, I realised that I was not near the finish at all.

 

I was somewhere in the middle. How did that happen? I had arrived very wired from London and was mourning for my mother who had recently died. Perhaps I was in a rush to make another ending.

The tranquility of Santa Maddalena helped me land in a better place to work for my book and nudged me to give it a different kind of attention.

 

I stayed in spring. The Tuscan hills were lush, green and magical.

Some nights I heard a nightingale singing in the trees as I wrote in the early hours, still in denial about not being any where near the end of my book. In the afternoon, when the sun broke through, I changed venue and wrote outside on a round stone table, interrupted only by the lizards scuttling through the bushes.

 

It felt good to be in the convivial company of three other writers who were as preoccupied as I was with their own work. In the evenings we ate delicious fresh food with Beatrice who is a generous and entertaining host. I can’t thank her enough for inviting me in to her beautiful home. I miss our conversations. She deeply understands writers and writing and has created the perfect Foundation – it has a sense of purpose – and some how, with the lightest touch, inspires creative freedom.

 

The oldest pug, Carlotta, talked throughout all meals. I’m not sure what she was saying but I think she was reciting Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal.

 

Deborah Levy