The Art of Fiction

The Art of Fiction: Deborah Levy at Goldsmiths university

At Goldsmiths University, the Writers centre welcomed Deborah Levy to give her thought on the top Art in Fiction. She is a South African born British playwright, novelist and poet. She gave an insight into two of her pieces of work (an extract from her collection of short stories titled Black Vodka and her new novel Swimming Home) the floor was then open for general discussion.

blackVodka45.Deborah Levy- Swimming HomeSwimmingHome

Images: Short story collection: Black Vodka; Image of Deborah Levy; Novel: Swimming Home

Quick notes:

Seven points taken from my note pad


Time is fascinating concept in novel writing. An obvious statement (which I often overlook). Coming to think of it all the books which I read last month ( Feb 2014) all played around with time.

EXAMPLE: Fitzgerald uses the past throughout the book to reveal characteristics of Gatsby in the The Great Gatsby. Whilst Albom highlighted Eddie’s significant birthdays to introduce scenarios in he’s life which he is to learn more about in  heaven in The Five People You Meet In Heaven, and Unigwe sets her book with three women in a room in Zwartezusterstraat however a majority of the novel bounces between Africa and Belgium as each woman vividly recalls her story in On Black Sisters’ Street.

Time can be suspended, time can travel, different points in time can expose different messages and fiction gives the writer the power to play around with the concept of time.


Someone asked ‘ Has uncertainty ever been a barrier to your writing’, she answered with ‘ The only people who are certain are psychopaths’. Examples, those who think ‘I am DEFINATLY being followed’ or ‘ I am CERTAIN I am right’ (yep those crazy ones). There is nothing wrong with being unsure whilst writing or producing a confused character, as long as it can be justified in some way.


Who doesn’t love an original piece(all hands stay down). Who would like to produce an original piece (many hands fly up). Some advice for writers to challenge that imagination and bring out that good stuff that often struggles to come to the surface:  

a. Think of the worst murder mysteries (or read them/watch them). Think of how the plot roughly goes, and pay attention to the (terrible) clues the narrator leaves behind as the mystery is unravelled. So a murder is committed, a detective is hired, the suspects are revealed and they all have secrets-which are gradually exposed. At the end they all stand in a line and the detective (dramatically) points out the cuprite (just like the Alan Sugar you are fired finger). Imagine if the thing that is murdered is something more abstract (e.g. hope, love). Pick something to be killed.

b. Take a blank sheet of papers and write down ideas. Write some questions, or some beliefs or morals or even thoughts. Pick the idea you find the most interesting. Now shift the perception of this questions and try to reach out for a new idea. It could be a distorted version of reality, perhaps a different world. Really play around with these ideas.


Her latest novel Swimming Home was partly inspired by a painting called The Empire Light by René Magritte. It’s surprising how much inspiration can come from a picture.


The Empire of Light by Rene Magritte (c. 1950-1954)


Name calling is an interesting place to get inspiration from (nicknames, childhood names, embarrassing names, mean names). It’s interesting what can be found from the question ‘What is in a name’. We have all gone through life with more than one name, especially those who hold a name that is not always easy to pronounce


When refereeing to identity she says: Isn’t it funny how I have left South Africa, gone to Britain with a funny accent. Years later, I come back to South Africa with a funny British accent. Identity isn’t so straight forward.


One way to deal with writiers block: Get rid of whatever you find boring 

Mini Conclusion: I discover a new author, but I learnt much more about writing. If you see any free local events, there is no harm in stopping by to see what it’s about.

[All images taken from Google Images]

About Piarve (84 Articles)
The business brains of Fashion Plugin, with a background in events and marketing and a love for forward thinking fashion, street art and red velvet cake.

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