Thing I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy

Hardcover, 176 pages
Published August 21st 2018 by Hamish Hamilton
Source: Publisher

I reviewed the second in this series of living autobiographies by Deborah Levy last month and I don’t think I lost out on anything by reading the books out of order. If anything, reading the first one in the series gave me much more appreciation for the self she talks about in THE COST OF LIVING.

In THINGS I DON’T WANT TO KNOW, readers get a glimpse of Levy’s life as a mother, as a child, and as a teenager. We are let into her mind as she muses about the nature of being woman in a world made by men and being white in a world polarized by white people. It is her observations as a child in South Africa that are the most profound. She speaks with a child’s voice when she wonders about the racism rife in the white people during apartheid and her words are so much more profound because of that.

While the book following this is much more nuanced in terms of feminism and feminist speak, this book shows Levy’s awareness of her own limits and capabilities. We meet the colourful people in her past. Her observations are brutal but not unsympathetic. She speaks to you through this book as if you are sitting right next to her. Her voice and thoughts will resonate within you–or they did within me.

I loved how Levy discusses the conception of the “mother” in society: how tightly this mother is packaged and how stifling the limits of a woman’s life are once she becomes a mother. A mother is defined and deified by the patriarchy but only until the woman follows the prescriptions of what a mother is and should be. Once she deviates from that, she falls from grace.

This is a brilliant piece of nonfiction. It is deeply contemplative and will make you thing long and hard about things. I enjoyed it.