An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell

An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell
Image source: Google

Rating: 3.8/5

Author: Deborah Levy

Publisher: Trafalgar Square Publishing

Publishing Date: August 1993

Language: English

Genre: Poetry

ISBN-10: 1908276460

ISBN-13: 978-1908276469

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 100

Cost: Rs. 805 (Paperback), Rs. 440.37 (Kindle Edition)


She is a shimmering, tattooed and acerbic angel, flown from Paradise to save him from the suburbs of hell. He, an accountant worn down by the day-to-day struggles of the nine to five, is dreaming of a white Christmas, a little garden and someone to love. She attempts, with scornful wit, to shock him out of his commuter's habits and into an experience of ecstasy.

Deborah Levy whips up a storm of romance and slapstick, of heavenly and earthly delights.


This is a dystopian philosophical poem about individual freedom and the search for the good life.

An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell” is short, running to only 72 pages of poetry, and given some pages contain three lines of poetry, it is one you can easily read in a single sitting.

Containing two sections we have alternating poems by “He”, an unsure accountant, and “She” an angel sent to save him from the suburbs of hell.

Levy makes something unconventional of this typical love-story, and the factors like- voice and style elevate the standard of poetic expression:

"and a wardrobe with mirrored doors"

"undressing and dressing and cross dressing and overdressing and addressing envelopes"

"I like the light to be just light and the dark to be just dark"

There's as much pain and satire in the poem that leaves none of the extreme, contradictory feelings of new amour unspoken for.

The two characters are richly injected with character development and it can be witnessed through dialogic exchange alone. Their amorous discourse explores the impossible love struggling to emerge between the small passions of a suburban man and a shimmering, tattooed and acerbic angel who rejoices in the drama of uncertainty.

And while references to water filters and smart phones may be made (and leave one wondering how much has been changed in this previously out of American print work, originally copyrighted in 1990); Levy's text chooses all the right, simple words with an uncanny melody.

An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell is a painful, melancholic and darkly funny exploration of incompatible ideas of love and happiness revealed through the counterpoint dialogue of angel and man.

About the Author:

Playwright, novelist and poet Deborah Levy (Fellow Royal Society of Literature) was born in 1959 in South Africa. She moved to Britain with her family and studied theatre at Dartington College of Arts. She was a Creative Arts Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, between 1989 and 1991.

She is a regular contributor of articles and reviews to newspapers and magazines including The Independent, The Guardian and the New Statesman. Formerly director and writer for MANACT Theatre Company, Cardiff, Deborah Levy's plays include Pax (1984); Heresies: Eva and Moses (1985), written for the Royal Shakespeare Company; Clam (1985); The B File (1993); and Honey Baby (1995). She is also the author of a libretto adapted from Federico Garcia Lorca's play Blood Wedding. A collection of her plays, Plays: 1 was published in 2000.

Deborah Levy is also the author of seven novels: Beautiful Mutants (1989); Swallowing Geography (1993); The Unloved (1994); Diary of a Steak (1997); Billy & Girl (1999); Swimming Home (2011); and Hot Milk (2016).  She has been shortlisted twice for the Booker Prize, in 2012 and 2016.

Levy’s autobiographical essay on writing, Things I Don't Want to Know, a response to the essay of the same title by George Orwell, was published by Notting Hill Editions in 2013. She has also written a sequel, The Cost of Living (2018).

She is also the author of three collections of short stories: Ophelia and the Great Idea (1989); Pillow Talk in Europe And Other Places (2004); and Black Vodka (2013).  The latter was shortlisted for the International Frank O’Connor Award.