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The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography (2018)

by Deborah Levy

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1969101,321 (4.06)4
The bestselling exploration of the dimensions of love, marriage, mourning, and kinship from two-time Booker Prize finalist Deborah Levy. To strip the wallpaper off the fairy tale of The Family House in which the comfort and happiness of men and children has been the priority is to find behind it an unthanked, unloved, neglected, exhausted woman. The Cost of Living explores the subtle erasure of women's names, spaces, and stories in the modern everyday. In this "living autobiography" infused with warmth and humor, Deborah Levy critiques the roles that society assigns to us, and reflects on the politics of breaking with the usual gendered rituals. What does it cost a woman to unsettle old boundaries and collapse the social hierarchies that make her a minor character in a world not arranged to her advantage? Levy draws on her own experience of attempting to live with pleasure, value, and meaning--the making of a new kind of family home, the challenges of her mother's death--and those of women she meets in everyday life, from a young female traveler reading in a bar who suppresses her own words while she deflects an older man's advances, to a particularly brilliant student, to a kindly and ruthless octogenarian bookseller who offers the author a place to write at a difficult time in her life. The Cost of Living is urgent, essential reading, a crystalline manifesto for turbulent times.… (more)
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English (8)  German (1)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A very raw, personal, take on a life after marriage, in a very feminist perspective. Very powerful, very engrossing, and each 'essay' or 'short story' led into the next. Definitely enlightening to men I think, and how we come off to women, in situations where we don't understand ourselves - and more importantly - how we don't understand women.

I did think it was interesting, and most likely purposeful, how she mentions that men don't give names to their wives. This changes for the first (and only time) when Nadia enters her life. But what I think is interesting about this; is how she never once lists a male's name in this book. A few nicknames given, but "the man who cried at the funeral" , "my best male friend", etc. ( )
  BenKline | Jul 1, 2020 |
Very good, but not quite as brilliant as the first in the series, Things I Don't Want to Know. I'll read the third when it comes out for sure, and her observations on gender roles and politics are as trenchant and well-written as ever. ( )
  andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
Everything was calm. The sun was shining. I was swimming in the deep. And then, when I surfaced 20 years later, I discovered there was a storm, a whirlpool, a blasting gale lifting the waves over my head.
At first I wasn’t sure I’d make it back to the boat and then I realised I didn’t want to make it back to the boat. Chaos is supposed to be what we most fear but I have come to believe it might be what we most want. If we don’t believe in the future we are planning, the house we are mortgaged to, the person who sleeps by our side, it is possible that a tempest (long lurking in the clouds) might bring us closer to how we want to be in the world.
Life falls apart. We try to get a grip and hold it together. And then we realise we don’t want to hold it together. ( )
  damngoodsoffie | Feb 19, 2020 |
This is an allusive and idiosyncratic memoir about how Deborah Levy created a new life for herself and her daughters following the break-up of her marriage and the death of her mother. It explores how creativity can be used to invent new ways of living, how at a point of crisis someone can rewrite the story of her life and take a new direction. I like the way she explores the social expectations placed on women and the possibility of composing new stories if the old ones no longer fit. I find Levy an inspiring person.

Favourite quote: ‘Freedom is never free. Anyone who has struggled to be free knows how much it costs.’
  papercat | Jun 14, 2019 |
Bücher von Deborah Levy, in denen die Autorin ihr Leben und ihre Erlebnisse zum Thema macht, sind nie leicht zu fassen und zu rezensieren. So auch „Was das Leben kostet“, in dem sie die Trennung von ihrem Ehemann und den Tod ihrer Mutter verarbeitet. War es in „Was ich nicht wissen will“ noch die Sprachlosigkeit, aus der sie einen Ausweg sucht, sind es nun die plötzlich entstehenden Lücken, die sie füllen muss. Ein neues Heim, das nicht heimelig werden will; die Definition des Ich, das nicht mehr (nur) Gattin und Mutter ist, sondern Frau in einer Welt, die scheinbar viel zu sehr von misogynen Männern dominiert wird; der Tod der Mutter und die darauf folgende Orientierungslosigkeit – mit dem Schreiben verarbeitet sie ihre Emotionen und die Suche nach Struktur und Sinn im neuen Dasein.

Vor allem ihre Begegnungen mit Männern haben beim Lesen einen ausgesprochenen Reiz. Womöglich übt sie eine besondere Anziehungskraft auf diejenigen Exemplare aus, die in einem - positiv formuliert – traditionellen Weltbild gefangen sind und Frauen nur als dekoratives Element wahrnehmen und denen jeder Horizont fehlt, das Gegenüber als gleichwertigen Gesprächs- und Lebenspartner anzuerkennen. Ohne Frage hat der gesellschaftliche Wandel, den die Frauen im 20. Jahrhundert erstritten haben, nicht jeden erreicht und stellt so manchen Mann vor große Herausforderungen, wenn an ihrem Weltbild gerüttelt wird und sie sich nicht in der Rolle wiederfinden, die sie sich qua Geschlecht zuschreiben.

Aber auch ihr Fahrrad, symbolisches Kampfmittel, an und mit dem sie ihre Wut und Energie zu kanalisieren versucht, nimmt eine interessante Rolle ein. Die neugewonnene Freiheit durch den Elektroantrieb ermöglicht die Mobilität im chronisch verstopften London bei gleichzeitig allen damit verbundenen Nachteilen wie erfrorene Finger im Winter und dem mühsamen Transport der Einkäufe. Aber es ist auch das Gerät, das ihr als Person die Schau stiehlt und die Aufmerksamkeit von Männern auf sich zieht.

„Freiheit ist nie umsonst. Wer je um Freiheit gerungen hat, weiß, was sie kostet.“

Als Kind ist Deborah Levy mit ihren Eltern aus Südafrika geflüchtet, nun flüchtet sie mit Anfang 50 aus dem Leben in Ehe und steht wieder vor dem Neuanfang und dem Aufbau nicht nur einer Ordnung, sondern auch des eigenen Ichs. Die Introspektion durch die Personalisierung des eigenen Ichs im Schreiben erlaubt es ihr, auch kritische und angreifbare Gedanken zu verbalisieren und ihr Leben neu zu strukturieren. Ein harter und steiniger, aber interessanter Weg, dem man als Leser gerne folgt. ( )
  miss.mesmerized | May 30, 2019 |
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Man ist immer irrealer als die anderen. Marguerite Duras, Das tägliche Leben
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Ein Happy-End hängt ganz davon ab, wo wir die Geschichte enden lassen, meinte Orson Welles.
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The bestselling exploration of the dimensions of love, marriage, mourning, and kinship from two-time Booker Prize finalist Deborah Levy. To strip the wallpaper off the fairy tale of The Family House in which the comfort and happiness of men and children has been the priority is to find behind it an unthanked, unloved, neglected, exhausted woman. The Cost of Living explores the subtle erasure of women's names, spaces, and stories in the modern everyday. In this "living autobiography" infused with warmth and humor, Deborah Levy critiques the roles that society assigns to us, and reflects on the politics of breaking with the usual gendered rituals. What does it cost a woman to unsettle old boundaries and collapse the social hierarchies that make her a minor character in a world not arranged to her advantage? Levy draws on her own experience of attempting to live with pleasure, value, and meaning--the making of a new kind of family home, the challenges of her mother's death--and those of women she meets in everyday life, from a young female traveler reading in a bar who suppresses her own words while she deflects an older man's advances, to a particularly brilliant student, to a kindly and ruthless octogenarian bookseller who offers the author a place to write at a difficult time in her life. The Cost of Living is urgent, essential reading, a crystalline manifesto for turbulent times.

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