Black Vodka: Ten Stories
“Shining a Light”
“Shining a Light” is from Deborah Levy’s new collection, BLACK VODKA: TEN STORIES (Bloomsbury, 2014), which was short listed for The Frank O’Connor Award and the BBC International Short Story Award. Levy has written five novels, with a long gap between her penultimate novel, Billy and Girl, and her most recent, the Man Booker shortlisted, Swimming Home.
Levy was born in apartheid South Africa in 1959 and moved with her family to London in 1968, where she started writing poetry, plays and novels. The success of Swimming Home, which had been turned down by mainstream publishers, has resulted Penguin reprinting her earlier novels, The Unloved, Beautiful Mutants, and Swallowing Geography. She was recently interviewed by The Guardain.
Guardian: Why was there a 15-year gap between your 1996 novel, Billy and Girl, and Swimming Home?
Levy: I was raising my kids, I was teaching, I was a fellow at the Royal College of Art. Maybe other female writers with children do better, but I need such ruthless attention when I write that it was very difficult to do that in the early days of my children. But I was writing short stories, and they became Black Vodka. So now, talking about my books, making a connection between works past and present, is a pleasure. I’m rediscovering things in the early work.
Guardian: How does it feel to see new editions of books you wrote 20 years ago?
Levy: Amazing. It’s like looking at an old photograph album of yourself and thinking, ooh, those are the clothes I was wearing then, and, where did I get those shoes? The Unloved was written when I was pregnant and there’s a photograph of me lying in bed in 1994 with my newborn baby girl and by my elbow are the proofs of the book. Beautiful Mutants was written when I was 27, during Thatcher’s second term, very much a state-of-the-nation book.