Black Vodka by Deborah Levy

Black Vodka DM
‘Kissing you is like new paint and old pain. It is like coffee and car alarms and a dim stairway and a stain and it's like smoke.’
(‘Placing a Call’)

Deborah Levy

Michèle Roberts

Price: £12 (print), £9 (ebook)


eBook ISBN:

Original language:

Published by:
And Other Stories

Publication date:
26 February 2013

From the 2012 Man Booker Prize and

BBC International Short Story Award

shortlisted author


Deborah Levy was also shortlisted for the 2012 Specsavers National Book Awards (UK Author of the Year) and 2013 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize.

How does love change us? And how do we change ourselves for love – or for lack of it? Ten stories by acclaimed author Deborah Levy explore these delicate, impossible questions. In Vienna, an icy woman seduces a broken man; in London gardens, birds sing in computer start-up sounds; in ad-land, a sleek copywriter becomes a kind of shaman. These are twenty-first century lives dissected with razor-sharp humour and curiosity, stories about what it means to live and love, together and alone.

 More Information

  • The title story of Black Vodka was shortlisted for the BBC International Short Story Award 2012.
  • Deborah Levy’s most recent novel, Swimming Home (2011, And Other Stories) was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize, 2012 Specsavers National Book Awards (UK Author of the Year) and 2013 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize.
  • If you had subscribed to And Other Stories before this book went to the printers, you would have received one of the first copies of Black Vodka, in which all subscribers are thanked by name. Find out about subscribing to upcoming titles here.
  • We love the things people are saying on twitter and Facebook about Deborah Levy’s Black Vodka ahead of publication. We thought you might like to hear a few of the comments – we’ve put them on our Ampersand blog here.

Praise for Black Vodka

  • ‘Levy’s sinister, near-private language’ provides ‘more signs that her work is mellowing… these ominous, odd, erotic stories burrow deep into your brain.’ Anthony Cummins, Financial Times
  • ‘Metropolitan and knowingly sophisticated, Levy’s sparse, elegant stories are poetic and faintly surreal.’ Phil Baker, Sunday Times
  • ‘Like their protagonists, these stories […] are powerful because they are fragmentary, elliptical; because they interrupt and disrupt themselves, and refuse to settle down into something immediately recognisable. Alex Clark, The Guardian
  • ‘Levy’s latest collection of short stories explores love, loss, and betrayal as well as the small cruelties that play out in modern day lives through elegantly conceived and executed prose.’ Lucy Popescu, Independent on Sunday
  • ‘Deborah Levy’s Black Vodka is a collection of mischievous vignettes of Mitteleuropa in the almost quarter of a century since the fall of the Berlin Wall.’ Catherine Taylor, The Telegraph
  • ‘It seems only fitting that [Levy] follows her tour-de-force with this selection of her pared-down short fiction … [her] pen is a volatile weapon.’ Lucy Scholes, The Observer
  • ‘These tales of unconventional love reinforce Levy’s reputation as a major contemporary writer who never pulls her punches.’ Julia Pascal, The Independent
  • ‘Deborah Levy is one of the most exciting voices in contemporary British fiction, and her new collection, Black Vodka, delivers the sophisticated and astringent tone her readers have long come to expect.’ Lauren Elkin, Times Literary Supplement
  • There is a sexy hauteur in Deborah Levy’s prose reminiscent of the voice of Marianne Faithfull. The rasping, deadpan delivery of these ten new stories emit a dreamy harshness at once jaded and invigorating.’ Catherine Taylor, New Statesman
  • ‘Here, as in her previous plays, stories and novels, her writing exhibits a rhetorical severity which has a mythic, lullaby quality, experimental and at the same time simple and beautiful.’ Alex Christofi, The Literateur
  • ‘The full work lingers on as more than the sum of its parts, so that each elliptical story becomes, by virtue of inclusion in the collective, its own second, larger narrative.’ Fiona Melrose, Writer’s Hub
  •  ‘[a] sharply surreal collection of pieces … Like Lydia Davis, Levy pushes the idea of ‘story’ … these are shots, potent and punchy, to be read individually and savoured rather than drunk down in one go.’ Julia Bell, Books of the Year, Writer’s Hub 
  • ‘Humane in its perception, dazzling in its originality and crystalline in its expression.’ Isabel Costello,  Literary Sofa
  • ‘Black Vodka’s stories, characters and settings live and breathe beyond the last page detailing their lives … Somewhere, these stories live on, testament to the vivid prose and razor sharp structure of Levy’s writing.’ Jennie Blake, Book Hugger
  • ‘Excellent collection Black Vodka … It’s beautifully and subtly done; a tale obliquely told through objects lost and vivid impressions of a couple of summer days … All the stories in this collection are worth lingering over and rereading.’ Jenny Wren and Bella Wilfer
  • ‘There is darkness here, puzzlement and often a sensation that you need to read each story again and again to get more from it – so I did … A brilliant collection indeed.’ Savidge Reads
  • ‘Black Vodka is an inexhaustible feast. Its richness can be ascribed in part to that style of weighted reticence we sense at work in Swimming Home.’ Kevin Breathnach, The Stinging Fly

Praise for Deborah Levy

  • ‘The strange brilliance of her imagination’ The Independent
  • ‘Levy is consistently striking and successful when reinterpreting and creating new contexts for literary and dramatic ideas.’ Times Literary Supplement
  • ‘She writes like a hyper-kinetic angel.’ Sunday Times
  • ‘[Levy] is a skilled wordsmith and creates an array of intense emotions and moods in precise, controlled prose.’ The Independent
  • ‘Levy speaks in an almost conspiratorial manner. Her writing is very similar, boasting a directness that’s hard to turn away from, but there’s nothing quiet about her written words.’ The Irish Times
  • ‘A major contemporary writer who never pulls her punches.’ Julia Pascal, The Independent
  • ‘Levy sensitively conveys the phenomenology of textures, of skin and breath. Embedded in her coiled, polished sentences is the drive that pushes us together, and forces us apart.’ Times Literary Supplement
  • ‘Levy is an exciting writer, sharp and shocking as the knives her characters wield.’ Sunday Times
  • ‘Delicate, calm, mysterious, both playful and terribly sad.’ Mary Gaitskill, New York Times
  • ‘She is one of the few contemporary British writers comfortable on a world stage.’ New Statesman
  • ‘Levy’s prose throbs its way into the imagination.’ The Observer
  • ‘Levy’s strength is her originality of thought and expression.’ Jeanette Winterson
  • ‘… one of my favourite living writers …’  Joanna WalshRestless Books
  • ‘I made notes to read as much as I can find by Deborah Levy…’
  • ‘Lively, sharp, remarkably evocative with very few words, Levy is the best kind of “modern” writer’ Booklist (USA)

Praise for Swimming Home

  • ‘Deborah Levys storytelling is allusive, elliptical and disturbing. Her touch is gentle, often funny and always acute… This is a prizewinner.’ Julia Pascal, The Independent
  • ‘Readers will have to resist the temptation to hurry up in order to find out what happens . . . Our reward is the enjoyable, if unsettling, experience of being pitched into the deep waters of Levy’s wry, accomplished novel.’ Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review
  • ‘Deborah Levy has made something strange and new … spiky and unsettling. In Swimming Home, home is elusive, safety is unlikely, and the reader closes the book both satisfied and unnerved.’ John Self, The Guardian
  •  ‘A stealthily devastating book … Levy manipulates light and shadow with artfulness. She transfixes the reader … This is an intelligent, pulsating literary beast.’  Philip Womack, Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Ms. Levy is a stealthy storyteller, lulling us while busy scattering clues.’ The New York Times
  • ‘Deborah Levy’s brilliant Swimming Home is this year’s Man Booker Prize revelation.’ The Times
  • ‘Levy’s sense of dramatic form is unerring, and her precise, dispassionate prose effortlessly summons people and landscapes.’ New Yorker
  • Swimming Home is a statement on the power of the unsaid. Magisterial … Themes, phrases and images recur in rhythmic cycles through this fugal novel. Levys cinematic clarity and momentum convey confusion with remarkable lucidity.’ Abigail Deutsch, Times Literary Supplement
  • ‘Swimming Home is as sharp as a wasp sting. Christina Petrie, Sunday Times
  • ‘A compact treasure. Boyd Tonkin, in his round-up of the year’s best fiction, The Independent
  • ‘Delicate, calm, mysterious, both playful and terribly sad.’ Mary Gaitskill, New York Times

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