Foreign Femina Prize 2020, Deborah Levy has become a Parisian in full

Foreign Femina Prize 2020, Deborah Levy has become a Parisian in full
Foreign Femina Prize 2020, Deborah Levy has become a Parisian in full

Through the window, opened wide to let the smoke escape from her brown cigarettes with a white filter that she crushes out half-finished, we can see the spire of Notre-Dame-de-Paris. Sitting at a large white table in the charming studio she has been renting for a year in 5e district of the capital, a stone’s throw from the Seine, Deborah Levy, a London writer and adopted Parisian, is warm and hieratic, a little intimidating. She knows it.

In front of her, a vase with pink tulips and orange ranunculus springing from it. To his right, his open laptop. To his left, a few books: an old pocket edition, in French, ofThus spoke Zarathustra, by Nietzsche, bought from a second-hand bookstore because he liked the cover, Freud’s Requiem, a literary essay on the inventor of psychoanalysis, the biography of Colette by Julia Kristeva and the booklet of “Lacan, the exhibition”, which she recently went to see at the Center Pompidou-Metz. There are also around ten eggs, nicely arranged in a cast iron display found at flea markets. “Eggs are too beautiful to be confined to the kitchen!” “, she says.

This decor, everyday and intellectual, seems straight out of one of his books. “I suggested a meeting here because there is little of my life in this apartment,” yet announces Deborah Levy. In the same unequivocal tone, she will brush aside the idea that one can speak to one’s family circle. This writer protects her private life like the star she has become.

Remembered by the novel

Since the publication in French, four years ago, of the first two volumes of what she calls her “autobiography in motion”, Deborah Levy, 64, occupies the imagination of French readers. These works, “existential, philosophical, poetic and personal”, as she describes them without false modesty, depict her in the existence that she was forced to reinvent herself at the age of 50, following a painful divorce.

Nourished by his life, these almost real-time accounts of his geographical tribulations, material difficulties and prosaic or metaphysical thoughts have renewed, in the Anglo-Saxon world, the genre of autofiction. Released in 2016 in English, his novel Hot Milk will appear in France on May 10, driven by an initial print run of 17,000 copies (a fairly exceptional figure in the world of foreign literature). The film adaptation of the book, directed by Englishwoman Rebecca Lenkiewicz, will be released this year on the big screen. Prominent actresses Emma Mackey (revealed by the series Sex Education) and Vicky Krieps (seen at Paul Thomas Anderson, Mia Hansen-Løve and soon Jim Jarmusch) play the main roles.

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