Nov 27th, 2018, 11:19 AM

Explore What it Means to Render a Life in Writing

By Sage Theiss Sakata
Maureen Selwood (left) and Deborah Levy (right) at Animac film festival. Image Credit: Flickr/Carlos Cazurro
The Cost of Living: A reading and talk at AUP by Deborah Levy

On Tuesday, November 27, British novelist, poet and playwright Deborah Levy will read from the middle volume of her “living autobiography,” The Cost of Living, and discuss her work at the intersection of fiction and autobiography at 6:30 p.m. in C-103. In her "living biography," Levy draws on her own experiences of attempting to live with societal pressure. "She writes of the constraints imposed on the individual by society and uses language to explore how we might free ourselves of those constraints," said AUP Global Communications and Journalism Professor Hannah Westley. AUP English and Comparative Literature Professor Amanda Dennis explained how the book is alive to the problems of our time: profit-hunger, sexism, injustice, and the ways people exert power over one another. 

The Cost of Living looks at Levy, who at age 50, escaped a suffocating marriage and began to look at herself as an artist and individual. Levy starts a new life in a rundown apartment with her children after her separation. Interested in creating a new and brave persona, Levy began working at her desk. The novelist explores the female experience by critiquing the roles that society assigns us and how these gendered rituals can be broken. Levy tackles these topics with wit and humor, but that also makes us think, really think. "It asks us to think in a broader way about how we are involved in networks of power authored by society," said Professor Dennis. 

Levy exposes her own personal experiences in such a way that sounds a note to all human experiences. "She uses language to explore how we experience time and identity and the nature of subjectivity," said Professor Westley. Levy allows us to confront unrecognized pressures placed on the individual. Professor Dennis explains it brings forth the question: If we are unaware of the invisible pressures and demands placed on us by our culture, how can we resist them? 

Born in South Africa, Levy moved to Britain with her family where she studied theater at Dartington College of Arts. She has written across many genres and found her early success as a playwright. Her plays entitled Heresies: Eva and Moses (1987) were performed by The Royal Shakespeare Company. Levy also found success in short stories and is the author to Ophelia and the Great Idea (1989), Pillow Talk in Europe And Other Places (2004) and Black Vodka (2013). She is also the author of several novels including Beautiful Mutants (1989), Swallowing Geography (1993), The Unloved (1994), Diary of a Steak (1997), Billy & Girl (1999), Swimming Home (2011) and Hot Milk (2016). Levy has received numerous awards and twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize. 

Join the Center for Writers & Translators in welcoming this brilliant novelist, poet, and essayist. Levy will be in conversation with Amanda Dennis. Members from the public are welcome. To attend it is required that you RSVP to 24 hours prior and bring a photo ID to the event.