Deborah Levy’s short stories are controlled and precise, while retaining a surreal, dream-like quality. I continue to learn so much from her use of symbols; an object, person or animal in her work often holds multiple layers of meaning. She returns to them again and again, showing them to the reader from different angles, holding them up to the light to illuminate their contradictions.
‘A Better Way to Live’ is one of my favourite short stories because it demonstrates Levy’s skill with such finesse. It explores family, relationships, place, identity, yearning and what it means to want more for yourself, all within nine pages. Many of Levy’s characters are searching for the right way to live, or a for a life that feels true and authentic, while also accepting that they have made choices which have led them down particular paths. The protagonist’s mother tells him, “Be sure to enjoy language, experiment with ways of talking, be exuberant even when you don’t feel like it because language can make your world a better way to live.”
First published in Black Vodka by Deborah Levy, And Other Stories, 2013