Real Estate – an elegant exploration of the concept of a home and its desires

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At the end Real estateIn the third issue of the excellent Living Autobiography by British writer Deborah Levy, Levy discovers that her acquaintance knew the late French writer Marguerite Duras as a child. Upon learning of this, Levy immediately wishes Duras to join them, “sit down and give me some advice on running my house and household.”

Often while reading Real estatewhich is a playful, outspoken and eminently elegant exploration of Levy’s concept and her desire for home, I found that I really want her to sit with me.

Levy often makes me an avid reader, hungry for much more than she suggests. I mean it as very much appreciated. Her writings, especially in her memoirs, tend to take the form of short, slightly lyrical sections, some of which do not exceed the length of a paragraph. Each of them has a beautifully formulated idea, a question worth returning to, or a description so bold and beautiful that the reader begs to stay. V Real estateLevy reserves her most beautiful pieces – which, I must say, are never floral – for her “unreal state”: a dream home, which she designs and remakes throughout the book. It features an oval fireplace, pomegranate wood and light green shutters. Outside, in “unreal territory,” she holds a tied boat on the riverbank.

In real life, Levi spends half of her memoirs in a small London apartment, which she shares with her youngest daughter, and the other half for an internship in Paris, in an apartment she calls her “empty nest.” She knows full well that she cannot afford the “big house” of her dreams; real estate, she writes, is not only “a self-portrait and a cool portrait, [but] as well as the body, spreading its limbs for seduction. ” For Levy, letting herself be seduced is a pleasure, perhaps even more than owning the home of her dreams. Of course, she is unwilling to sacrifice her personal freedom or artistic integrity on the altar of Home Ownership: When film executives approach her asking her to write a film, but rejecting the complex female characters she offers, she is never abandoned by the temptation to pass off a bad script, cash out and buy her fantastic House. to the pleasure of wishing: “Perhaps,” she thinks, “it was not [the idea of] home, but desire itself that makes me feel more alive. ”

Feeling life is one of Levy’s main concerns, as is feeling “like her” is a problem, she notes, for most women, who are more often encouraged to be pretty than to be like ourselves. She writes with deep love about her aging friend Celia, who rejects “the patriarchal idea of ​​what an old woman should be: patient, selfless, serving everyone’s needs, pretending to be cheerful.” A visit to Celia before leaving for Paris prompts Levi to reflect on his aging, which takes up most of the second half of the memoir. On the brink of her 60th birthday, having raised two children and surviving a divorce, Levi feels like she recently returned home. However, she feels restless, eager to learn new ways to live a good life – hence her fantasy of receiving life advice from Margarita Duras, or “unexpected honor.” [and] the primal pleasure “she gets when she cooks for and spends time with her daughters and their friends. Real estateThe most animated scenes take place in Girls and Women, which Levy jokes about the opening; According to the daughters, the main course will be vodka and cigarettes.

Real estate For the most part, this is a book about the collision of fantasy and real life, or perhaps a synthesis of them. This sets it apart from other recent books on home ownership, from the death of Rachel Kusk. novel Second place to the presumptuous memoirs Have and be had… especially, gets entangled in class guilt, which she examines without paying attention. Levy, on the other hand, cannot get caught up in guilt, politics, or anything else. Part of this freedom stems from her comfort with her own politics, shaped by feminism and her South African family’s dissidence against apartheid. This also comes from her style. She easily penetrates into and out of reality, relying heavily on the logic of allusions and strange, charming collages of ideas. In one beautiful passage at the beginning of the book, she goes from the banana tree to the “luscious” false eyelashes of the tree salesman to Georgia O’Keeffe; somehow this sequence of images makes her yearn for “a home in which I could live, work and create the world at my own pace.”

Reading Real estate it is a lot like being in a world that moves at Levy’s speed. It’s bright and kinetic, never predictable, but always straightforward. Like all of Levy’s books, it is as good on a second reading as the first, if not better. Few writers can give that much so quickly. Levy’s hospitality on the page is delightful.

Lily Meyer is a writer and translator based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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