Levy, Deborah

Deborah Levy is a novelist and playwright. She was born in 1959 to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her father was a member of the Anti-Apartheid African National Congress (ANC), and, for four years, served a prison sentence for his political activism. Levy’s parents emigrated to Wembley Park, London, in 1968. Levy studied theatre at Dartington College of Arts and served as creative arts fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1989 to 1991. In her work she has artistcally engaged with her family background and issues of identity: “My paternal grandparents came to South Africa from Lithuania to escape the pogroms. My father’s mother was called Miriam, but I knew her as Mary, so names are always of interest to me in my novels … the way we slide between identities and histories in our names.” (Jewish Chronicle, 2016)

Levy initially wrote mainly for the theatre but has in the past decade become better known for her work in fiction. She has spoken about the difference of writing for the theatre and the novel: “My training as a playwright taught me that words must always resonate after they have been spoken out loud. Writing that is two dimensional has no resonance – it might be able to tell a story, but it won’t tell a story we continue to think about after we leave the theatre, or after we have finished a novel. The transition to fiction began in the rehearsal room, when I found that my mind was wandering to something I was writing, and that I was longing to get back to it.” (Jewish Chronicle, 2016). Levy’s theatrical writing includes: Pax (1984), written for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Clam (1985); Heresies: Eva and Moses (1987), The B File (1993); and Honey, Baby (1995). She is also the author of a libretto adapted from Federico Garcia Lorca’s play Blood Wedding (1933). Levy’s novels Swimming Home (2011) and Hot Milk (2016) were shortlisted for the 2012 and 2016 Man Booker prize and her collection of  short stories, Black Vodka (2013), was nominated for the International Frank O’Connor prize in 2013.


—. Plays: 1: Pax; Clam; The B File; Pushing the Prince into Denmark; Macbeth – False Memory; Honey, Baby. London: Methuen Drama, 2000.