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It is 1988 and Saul Adler a narcissistic young historian has been invited to Communist East Berlin to do research; in exchange he must publish a favorable essay about the German Democratic Republic As a gift for his translator's sister a Beatles fanatic who will be his host Saul's girlfriend will shoot a photograph of him standing in the crosswalk on Abbey Road an homage to the famous album cover As he waits for her to arrive he is grazed by an oncoming car which changes the trajectory of his life The Man Who Saw Everything is about the difficulty of seeing ourselves and others clearly It greets the specters that come back to haunt old and new love previous and current incarnations of Europe conscious and unconscious transgressions and real and imagined betrayals while investigating the cyclic nature of history and its reinvention by people in power Here Levy traverses the vast reaches of the human imagination while artfully blurring sexual and political binaries feminine and masculine


10 thoughts on “The Man Who Saw Everything

  1. says:

    I loved this novel it is impossible to explain WHY it is good without spoiling it which I worry will deflate readerly expectation The first 98 pages are a very good slightly surreal novel about Saul Adler a beautiful young man who travels to East Berlin and falls in unexpected love The last 102 pages are incredibly ambitious and incredibly good they turn every scene in the first half of the novel on their heads complicate it and explain it Think TRUST EXERCISE mixed with Cusk seek it out


  2. says:

    On the Booker LonglistFor those readers who need to be on sure and certain ground in their reading this latest Deborah Levy novel is not for them Levy makes few compromises here she raises many uestions and often than not declines to provide any answers there are nebulous fragmented uncertain and unreliable realities memories and history In 1988 a young self obsessed Jewish historian Saul Adler is hit by a car on the Abbey Road the iconic Abbey Road that the Beatles are photographed on the famous cover of their 1969 album Saul suffers no serious injuries although his art photographer girlfriend Jennifer Moreau breaks up with him to head to the US whilst he takes up a research opportunity in East Germany the GDR with the Stasi engaged in state surveillance of its people Saul is to find love with his translator Walter Muller and his sister Luna obsessed with trying to escape from BerlinIn 2016 Saul is once again hit by a car on the famous Abbey Road and taken to hospital where he receives visitors at his bedside Nothing is as it appears in this novel where everything is disputed including perceptions of the self and others and history is Saul's father the authoritarian he is portrayed as? Whilst there is surveillance personal family and state what is observed and what is not? Is Saul dead or not? This was an emotionally engaging wide ranging novel thought provoking and challenging of dichotomies the past and present the old Europe and the New fluid sexuality Brexit betrayals conspiracies identity and what it is to live a life Many thanks to Penguin UK for an ARC


  3. says:

    I was intrigued and puzzled from the very first paragraph beginning in London 1988Saul Adler says“I was thinking about how Jennifer Moreau had told me I was never to describe her beauty not to her or to anyone else When I asked her why I was silenced in this way she said ‘Because you only have old words to describe me’ This was on my mind when I stepped onto the zebra crossing with it’s black and white stripes at which all vehicles must stop to allow pedestrians to cross the road A car was coming towards me but it did not stop I had to jump backwards and fell on my hip using my hands to protect myself from the fall The car stalled and a man rolled down the window He was in his sixties silver hair dark eyes thin lips He asked if I was okay When I did not answer he stepped out of the car” As the story continued sentence after sentence I was puzzled interested but definitely puzzled From a rectangle shape object the driver was holding in his hand with an angry voice inside that Saul hears to the strange conversation between the driver and Saul about his ‘girlfriend’ and her ‘age’to Saul ‘meeting’ his girlfriend has sex which she initiates followed by Saul asking Jennifer if she will consider marrying him to a sudden breakupthere are some odd things going on Both Saul and Jennifer a photographer baffled me They were interesting perplexing characters Basic details fill in Saul is 28 years old Jennifer is 23 a photographer Saul’s a historian Saul’s father a communist had recently died Saul’s going to bury his father’s ashes in East Germany Saul’s mother was Jewish and died in a car crash Saul’s also on his way to East Germany the GDR to do research on the rise of fascism in exchange for publishing a flattering essay about the German Democratic Republic A journey will unfold that will keep you reading but you’ll be having uestionsGET COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY Saul’s leaving in 3 days He speaks German but is assigned a German translator anyway Walter Muller Saul will be staying with Walter and his family Walter’s sister Luna is Beatles die hard fan so it was Jennifer’s idea to photograph Saul on ‘Abby Road’ and bring it to her He was also reuested to bring a tin of pineapple I had my first laugh about slices or chunks in syrup or juice? Baffled and confused but definitely engaged are words to describe how I felt for the first half of this bookAs I continued reading an ‘aha’ moment came suggesting things are not as they seem Oh my gosh and then it hit meTHINGS REALLY AREN’T AS THEY SEEM Can we see ourselves as easily as others see us? Do others see us clearly than we see ourselves?This book is odd with lots of unraveling to do but it’s captivating endearing humorous haunting charming and tender Most it’s brilliantly crafted If you’re a puzzle lover you’ll love unraveling this storyI leave you with one word to ponder displacementThank You Nicole for sending me this bookOh you naughty woman Yes I enjoyed it very much Going to go stand in front of the mirror now 😉And that’s it I’m reading books by Deborah Levy This was only my second “Hot Milk” was odd and great too Other Levy fans??? Which Levy book should I read next? I’m in


  4. says:

    Nominated for the Booker Prize 2019Nominated for the Goldsmiths Prize 2019Deborah Levy's new novel certainly tells a captivating story but what makes this book so fantastic is her smashing ha narrative concept Our narrator is Saul a British historian and expert on Eastern European communism After his girlfriend Jennifer breaks up with him 28 year old Saul travels to the GDR as part of his research It's 1988 but mysteriously Saul already seems to know that the wall will come down only one year later which brings us to the narrative concept This is a book in two parts and both start with Saul being hit by a car on Abbey Road while trying to cross the street on the famous zebra crossing Saul crashes into the wing mirror which shatters its reflective glass entering his head I had gazed at my reflection in his wing mirror and my reflection had fallen into me In part 1 of the book the events described above occur after the accident but in part 2 it's 2016 and Saul has to be hospitalized and undergoes surgerey Suffering from sepsis and drugged with morphine all his memories the reflections of himself and others are still there but they are shattered and Saul is struggling to put them back together He conflates people and scenes lead by feelings and perceived similarities and connections but those around him correct his efforts again and again with their own subjective views I have experienced a situation where one of my relatives suffered a head injury followed by major surgery and sepsis and I feel like their mental state of trying to re connect the dots after waking from a coma is extremely well renderd by Levy Saul tries to remember what happened with him and Jennifer what he experienced in Berlin almost 30 years ago and the repercussions of these events thus uestioning part 1 Throughout the whole book Levy works with the term spectre which seems to signify the subjective meaning feelings and associations that become attached to people and events in our minds and memories profoundly and often sub consciously shaping our perception These spectres are also used to connect people and events in Saul's life after the accident The family of Saul's Jewish mother had to flee Nazi Germany his father is part of the struggling British working class So did his mother flee the fascists and married a communist? Is the father an authoritarian figure just like the GDR is an authoritarian fatherland? Did Saul want to cut all ties with his working class background while the worker's and peasant's state was holding its citizens hostage? Did Jennifer a photographer really see him through her camera and did his friends in the GDR really listen to him or were they just taking notes for the Stasi? In which timeline do those dogs turtles toy trains cherry tree petals and funerals belong and why can they time travel?This book is fairly easy to read and to follow but it is packed with little twists and riddles the biggest of all possibly being who this Saul Adler actually is we see and fragmentary reflections and while many aspects of his personality come together others remain ambiguous or even contradictory but then again our reflection in the mirror is never flawless A beautiful touching book about human connection and identity that fingers crossed will go on to win some prizes


  5. says:

    Now unsurprisingly shortlisted for the 2019 Goldsmith Prize perhaps a better fit for this brilliant book than the Booker PrizeRe read following its longlisting for the 2019 Booker Prize and upgraded twice to 5 as this is a book which relays multiple re reads and has proved to be the most enigmatic and thought provoking on the longlist In three days I was travelling to East Germany the GDR to research cultural opposition to the rise of fascism in the 1930s at the Humboldt University Although my German was reasonably fluent they had assigned me a translator His name was Walter Müller I was to stay for two weeks in East Berlin with his mother and sister who had offered me a room in their tenement apartment near the university Walter Müller was part of the reason I had nearly been run over on the zebra crossing He had written to say that his sister whose name was Katrin – but the family called her Luna – was a big Beatles fan It had been Jennifer’s idea to take a photograph of myself crossing the zebra on Abbey Road to give to Luna The book begins seemingly conventionally in 1988 The first party narrator is Saul Adler is a 28 year old narcissistic historian son of a recently deceased domineering communist father Saul’s mother was the Jewish daughter of a German University professor and who was an escapee from Nazi Germany at the age of 8 Saul’s grandmother having given her a string of pearls together with her one suitcase When Saul’s mother dies Saul’s father gives him the pearls only for Saul to insist on wearing them at all times a sign of his emerging bisexuality which alienates him from his working class father and bullying working class brother MatthewAt the book’s opening Saul is lightly struck and flesh wounded by a car on the Abbey Road zebra crossing under the gaze and lens of his photographer girlfriend Jennifer Moreau – while attempting to reproduce the Beatles famous Album coverAs the German driver asks if he is OK and explains what happens three things strike us alternative versions of history; a small anachronism; and perhaps an anomaly in the integrity of Saul’s account numbering mine 1 I smiled at his careful reconstruction of history blatantly told in his favour 2 While he spoke he gazed at the rectangular object in his hand The object was speaking There was definitely a voice inside it a man’s voice and he was saying something angry and insulting 3 When I told him I was twenty eight he didn’t believe me and asked for my age again Saul and Jennifer make love Saul later finding some unused condoms and then after he abruptly and rather unconvincingly asks Jennifer to marry him she even abruptly curtails their relationship saying she is moving to America We but not Saul gain a hint of Saul’s narcissism and self centeredness He is for example convinced that Jennifer is obsessed with his appearance and body and that he is the muse for her photography about other aspects of which he expresses a complete lack of interest We also see increasing temporal dissonance starting to emerge in Saul’s account – he is very confused that a local shop now seems to specialise in Polish food; he also starts seeing echoes of events in America and a son called IsaacIn line with the opening uote Saul goes to the GDR starts an affair with Walter buries his father’s ashes which he carries in a matchbox on his beloved communist soil and is seduced by Walter’s sister Luna Luna an intense ballerina is obsessed with a Jaguar she believes is roaming near the family’s dacha one Saul believes is silver rather than black She is bitterly disappointed that Saul forgot to bring a tin of pineapple chunks he had promised to help feed her insatiable taste for the West pineapple is mentioned no fewer than 30 times in Saul’s account of his trip; her seduction of Saul is effectively blackmail to secure a temporary marriage and permanent trip to the WestInstead of helping her escape Saul tries via Rainer a University colleague of Walter’s to arrange for Walter to escape although realising too late that instead he has betrayed Walter to the StasiBut again during this tale we see some apparent oddities and mixings of time A light breeze blew into the GDR but I knew it came from America A wind from another time It brought with it the salt scent of seaweed and oysters And wool A child’s knitted blanket Folded over the back of a chair Time and place all mixed up Now Then There Here‘Listen Luna’ I felt as if I were floating out of my body as I spoke ‘In September 1989 the Hungarian government will open the border for East German refugees wanting to flee to the West Then the tide of people will be unstoppable By November 1989 the borders will be open and within a year your two Germanys will become one’You know Walter I don’t think that 1988’s the right dateSo when are you living?Further onSomeone had planted the tomatoes with me in the future soil of East Anglia The book then shifts to 2016 Saul Adler steps onto Abbey Road and is struck by a German driver Wolfgang who attempts to blame Saul for the accident while trying to ignore his own distracted driving and echoes of each of the same three issues as before emerge 1 I smiled at his careful reconstruction of history blatantly told in his favour 2 I was lying on the road A mobile phone lay next to my hand A male voice inside it was speaking angry and insulting words3 When I told him I was twenty eight he didn’t believe me And then in what is the final disintegration of any attempt at a conventional narrative Saul finds himself in hospital no longer sure of what time period he is in surrounded by Stasi agents with again history being disputed I could hear him explaining to my doctor who might also be a Stasi informer that I was a historian My subject was communist Eastern Europe and somehow I had transported myself back to the GDR a trip I had made when I was twenty eight in the year 1988 Now nearly thirty years later while I was lying on my back in University College Hospital I seemed to have gone back in time to that trip in the GDR in my youth Saul is visited by a number of peopleJennifer Moreau now a famous artist who has oddly aged 30 years whereas Saul believes he is still 28 His elderly and dying but apparently not dead father; when Saul points out he buried him in a matchbox some 30 years ago his father says “I think you were remembering a very small coffin” Jennifer we learn as a single mother had Saul’s son Isaac Isaac then died suddenly at the age of 4 Saul having visited Jennifer in America when Isaac fell ill but then deserting her for a uick fling with her neighbour just before their son died in Jennifer’s arms – something which lead to a final breach between themJack – his lover who lives and gardens with him in East AngliaAnd we realise if we did not already that Saul’s accident has shattered his memory leading fragments of different periods of history to flow through his mind that his narcissism has turned into literal mental self absorption that even oddities are reflections of what he has seen A few minutes after he left I head a mirror shatter It was an echo of something that had happened on the Abbey Road crossing I had glanced at myself in the wing mirror of the car Wolfgang’s car and it had exploded into a heap or reflective shards Some of these were inside my headI realized there was glass everywhere and that some of it was inside my head I had gazed at my reflection in the wing mirror of his car and my reflection had fallen into me I’ve mixed then and now all up “That’s what I do in my photographs” Your head hit the silver cat on the bonnet of my JaguarFor a start I had his Jaguar inside my head His wing mirror from which he had glimpsed the man in pieces crossing the road had shattered A thousand and one slivers of glass were floating inside my headI had been given a plastic bowl of tinned pineapple by the woman who wheeled the lunch trolleyWhat had happened between thirty and fifty six? Those years were lost to morphineI’m trying to cross the road Yes she said you’ve been trying to cross the road for thirty years but stuff happened on the way At times it is almost impossible to know whether memories are altering perception of reality present day reality is distorting past memories or whether both are bring influenced by something external An example is a lady in a blue dress Saul chats to when he revisits Abbey Road in 1988 a blue dress also appearing in East Germany and in the hospital where he reads the same poem to a Nurse as he shares with the lady but all three of these perhaps being inspired by the famous blue dress on the back cover of the “Abbey Road” albumThis is an intriguing book It is not a book about narrative the story itself could be said to lack interest but that is because it has been sacrificed on the altars of ideas for example the binary offset of femininemasculine EastWest pastpresent and analogy at one point for example Saul mentions that while he was oppressed by his father Walter was oppressed by his fatherland Saul is a very unlikable character – convinced that everyone loves him other than those who cannot cope with his exoticism and physical beauty and missing his own selfishness and snobbery I had been proud to have glamorous Jennifer Moreau on my arm what with her exotic French surname vintage powder blue trouser suit and matching suede platform boots I had watched Fat Matt and his shabby wife and their two young sons sitting in the front pew like they were the royals of the family and wondered what it was that I had done so wrong in their eyes apart from wearing a pearl necklace And the repeated motif underlying the dialogue between Saul and Jennifer only increases this sense It’s like this Gumble’s Yard this is how people talk to each other No it’s like this Deborah Levy your characters are deliberately pretentious However this is an intelligent and deep book – with multiple possible interpretationsOne key idea is of a spectre the spectre of the past haunting the present Early on Saul mentions Marx comment on the spectre haunting Europe; Jennifer we are told believes that “A spectre was inside every photograph she developed in the dark room” – her own photos designed like so much of the book to mix “then and now” In total the word “spectre” is mentioned twenty times in the book But spectres are everywhere subjects haunting photographs associations haunting objects past relationships haunting current ones A key theme for me then is the idea that our memoriesviews of the past are inevitably interpreted in light of the present; while our views of the present are necessarily coloured by our believes or memories of the pastAnd I think that Levy uses this theme to obliuely examine Brexit and the attitudes and believes behind it – answering the challenge that Karel Tiege poses in the epigraph “Poetic thought unlike rootless orchids did not grow in a greenhouse and did not faint when confronted with today’s traumas” My thanks to PenguinHamish Hamilton for an ARC via NetGalley


  6. says:

    So this is a novel about how some people need to be careful crossing roads Basically that's all The rest is pointless meandering between locations times discussions between some random characters who do nothing for the plot oh yeah there's no plot to do anything for How convenient There was supposed to be some mystery somewhere and it was about as undewhelming as to be absolutely invisible No I found one mystery about it why was this paragon of averageness rated so highly? No ideaWe start at 5 stars1 star for the gorgeous cover I never would have pickied this one up if not for it being so magnetic1 star for a couple of uotes I actually liked 1 star for total lack of plot There's no rhyme or reason to this volume 1 star for having a geniune hard on for Stalin In all seriousness he's mentioned on every other page Is this trying to be propaganda fiction? Is it why this absolutely worthless book got the glowing reception and even some awards nominations? It's like this throughout the book‘It’s an unconscious thought crime’ I said ‘Stalin knew about those and wanted to assassinate anyone who had them which is all of us’ c Come oooon How do you get to know what anyone wanted? He might have wanted an oversized pizza for all we can know today 1 star Genuinely bad dialogue‘So Karl Thomas’ I leaned over the chair and saw he had an ace in his hand ‘have you learned your ten commandments for the new socialist human?’‘What’s that?’‘Don’t you belong to a youth group? The Young Pioneers or the Free German Youth?’‘I’m English’ he said ‘And my name is Elijah’ c And I was looking at Donatello’s David and I was trying to figure out if the penis is what makes a man a man’‘I know you liked my penis’She laughed ‘I did’Rainer was standing next to us‘I’m sorry to hear about your father’ he said‘We were just talking about my penis Rainer’ c 1 star Lots of ramblingI was not happy but he was not in the mood to indulge my middle aged melancholy though he was not unkind I explained that I was functioning okay I could hold a conversation and argue coherently with friends in the pub and walk across town and look respectable My clothes were clean no buttons missing on my shirts no one would know I was indifferent to making it to my sixtieth year I now lectured on post communist Eastern Europe My students could not afford the uncontrolled rising rents in the cities and lived with their ageing parents Walter had lost some of his hair It was now cropped close to his head his face was thinner he wore spectacles with light aluminium frames c Is it just me or is it straight our rambling?‘You still have your lips’ he said as if he were still taking notes ‘Did you ever write your report on our economic miracle?’‘Yes I did I engaged supportively with the realities of life in the GDR’He laughed his excellent laugh head back new teeth bared; it was very open and sexy cSo overall this is 2 starsI smiled at his careful reconstruction of history blatantly told in his favour cI told him not to be sorry because my father had died many times The first time he died was around thirty years ago I had got used to him dying and coming back to life and then dying again c‘Jennifer?’‘Yes Saul’‘I have to tell you something’‘Go ahead’‘I am in love with someone else I am in deep with a man’‘Who?’‘Walter Müller I want to spend the rest of my life with him’‘That’s old news’ she said ‘That was when you were twenty eight By the way I am in love with a man too’ cDid she want to study the length of my toes and check if they were harmoniously and evenly spaced? c Of course Not‘Yes’ He was still stroking my arm with his new gentle fingers ‘You and I read the New Yorker in our armchairs We wake up together and take it in turns to make toast Our garden is blooming The blackberries are ripening’Morphine silvered my tongue lifted it this way and that way I chased it trying to bite its ripening into truth but it was too late‘Everyone is replaceable’ I said ‘but your love is not the love I want’Jack was looking in the direction of the stainless steel lift After a while he stood up and I walked him over to it‘I suppose’ he said ‘it offers me an exit from your cruelty’ I thought that he was lonely in every time and so was I c This was supposed to be uirky and emboldened?Given that she was always going on about my own sublime beauty I wondered if it meant anything c Ewww Please Herr Müller we want to know about your English friend Saul Adler Will you help us?YesWhat is the meaning of this line here? In this letter he has written to youThe words mean to put the palm of his hand or his fingertips on the stomach of his correspondent to better understand how he is feelingAnd what is the feeling?FriendshipWhy would a man place his hand on the stomach of another man to better understand a feeling?You will have to interrogate the handDid you have sexual relations with your English friend Saul Adler?If you are asking me if I have plans to leave the East and live elsewhere I have no plans to leaveWhat is the meaning of this sentence here referring to the Baltic Sea in winter?The words mean the correspondent wishes to see the Baltic Sea in winterAnd is the Baltic Sea a code for something else in this context?You will have to interrogate the Baltic SeaNo we will interrogate your sister instead We believe she is pregnant with Herr Adler’s child Is this your understanding too?You will have to interrogate his penis c That's an interesting possibility


  7. says:

    It’s London in 1988 and Saul Adler a Jewish historian is preparing for a visit to East Berlin He’s been invited to visit the GDR on the understanding that he’ll write a glowing paper on the economic miracle he finds there As a gift for the sister of his German host who is known to be infatuated with the Beatles he’s asked his photographer girlfriend to take a picture of him crossing Abbey Road as John Paul Ringo and George had done on the cover of their legendary album But Saul is clipped by a car that fails to stop on the crossing and though he is not seriously hurt the incident is to have long term repercussionsOnce in Berlin Adler soon has sexual interaction with his both male host and the female Beatle fan Luna It’s clear that Luna is hell bent on finding a way of leaving her restricted Communist existence and of travelling to Liverpool There is the constant suspicion that they’re all being watched so instead Saul soon escapes back to London This first half of the book felt fragmented and slightly off centre to me I couldn’t settle to it at all There just seemed to be something about it that didn’t uite add up In the second half the scene moves to London in 2016 Has there been a second road accident in the same spot? It isn’t clear to me but Saul is now hospitalised and in his semi conscious state he revisits events and relationships from the past Certain figures reappear in the present and I begin to understand that everything here has not uite been what it seemed As this short tale plays out I realise that there is now a completely different interpretation of events being dangled in front of meIt’s a very cleverly told story in part it’s frustrating I came close to abandoning it early on but it’s also an insightful commentary on sexuality betrayal and on the games that memory can play The conclusion to this book was to me ambiguous – perhaps intentionally so Even so and perhaps partly because of this it’s a piece that has occupied my thoughts than most books I’ve read in the past twelve months Levy is an author I’ve enjoyed before Hot Milk and Swimming Home and here she has again she’s provided something that is challenging and refreshingly different My thanks to Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review


  8. says:

    Update Aug 11 Since my ARC disappears in a week and now that I am delighted to say it HAS made the Booker longlist I wanted to re read it and see if it held up as well as in my initial read and also see if I could glean even meaning on a second go round Reading it or less in a single sitting and with some foreknowledge of what transpires did help me to ferret out some additional connections and resonances I missed the first time through and I also had of an emotional reaction to Saul's story also It still sits atop my rankings of the nine Booker titles I've read so far so am keeping fingers crossed it proceeds onto the shortlist and perhaps takes the prize PS I find it interesting that many reviews have erroneously pointed to Saul as the titular character and in my second reading I noted that twice Levy refers to Walter Müller as the man who saw everything not sure what to make of that but it does give one pause Original review My sincere thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for this honest review I'm not uite sure why or how Levy has emerged as one of my favorite authors I have now read almost everything she's ever published the one exception being Diary of a Steak which I finally tracked down a reasonably priced copy of so will read soon completest that I am She never really repeats herself in either style or topics but you can bet a Levy book is always carefully crafted intriguingly obtuse and each book almost demands multiple readings to parse out the hidden meanings Her latest tome is perhaps her most erudite and jam packed box of tricks; a kaleidoscopic investigation of the fractured mind of protagonist Saul Adler with two sections set in two different time frames or are they? in 1988 the then 28 year old budding historian undergoes a minor accident while attempting to have his girlfriend Jennifer take a picture of him recreating the iconic Beatles Abbey Road album cover Then in 2016 the middle aged Adler seemingly has another serious accident that splits his mind and memory into many fragments calling into uestion everything that has gone before in the previous hundred pages I found myself racing through to find out what happens on a basic level which perhaps does a disservice to how beautifully Levy weaves her various threads together so fully intend to go back very soon and reread so that I can appreciate fully her luminous language I also expect this to garner as much praise and awards attention as her previous Hot Milk and hope to see it make the Booker list this year and perhaps walk away with the prize If nothing else it is guaranteed a spot on my top 5 of 2019


  9. says:

    LONGLISTED FOR THE 2019 BOOKER PRIZESaul Adler is shocked than bewildered when his girlfriend Jennifer Moreau not only flatly turns down his marriage proposal but tells him that they are finished and that he can grab his stuff and leave Here we get a glimpse of the prose that will follow “because my marriage proposal had sunk to the bottom of the sea I was shipwrecked amongst the empty oyster shells with their jagged sharp edges and I could taste Jennifer Moreau on my fingers and lips”Earlier in the day Saul had been hit by a car while crossing Abby Road the crossing made famous by the Beatle’s Album cover which was their last record produced at EMI studios close by The old man who was driving the car Wolfgang stops to make sure he is ok A strange conversation ensues The man seems very interested in Saul and asks some personal uestions that seem inappropriate in the circumstances He also has a rectangular object which seems to be spitting out obscenities At the time Saul has no idea of the ramifications and just how much change this little accident will set in motionSaul is an historian and in three days he will travel to East Germany to write about its history and struggles with fascism It is 1988 and the Berlin Wall still splits the country in two separating the communists from the capitalists Saul is given access to the archives but in return he must write a favourable essay focussing on education and health care etcWe find very uickly that Saul was bullied badly growing up verbally from his father and physically from his brotherThings start to go a little surreal when Saul returns home and decides to order some flowers to be delivered to Jennifer He is looking for sunflowers on his third attempt a man who Saul believes to have given his name as Mike says he cannot understand the language he is talking in when asked what to write on the card Saul realises that he has been talking in German When he eventually finishes and thanks “Mike” the man says his name is not Mike The man tells Saul to “take care” just like the old man Wolfgang from the accident in the morningAs the narrative continues and strange little details start to pop up Things that are slightly different to his perception of them A photo that Jennifer took of him crossing Abby Road shows him barefoot but he is sure he was wearing shoes An old lady who lives in his building and has crippling arthritis using a zimmer frame to walk tells him she is going to a Polish shop to buy a poppy cake but he cannot recall a Polish shop being where she says it is Lost in thought for a few moments thinking about this he is then startled to see the old lady walking rapidly to the bus stop with no sign of any arthritis or the walking frameThis continues with every little detail every occurrence that Saul encounters being strangely even if only slightly nuanced from his initial perception At this point the reader must start to wonder if Saul has been injured in the crossing accident Maybe a form of concussion?When he is in East Germany objects initiate memories that he seemingly knows nothing about The sight of a little red train “I had seen that train before or dreamed it or even buried it and here it was returning like a spectre to torment me”He also describes the unification of Germany and the fall of communism in Russia the end of the Cold War to his translator Walter exactly how it happens in the future Later he does the same with Walter’s sister Luna again foretelling a future with complete confidence and certainty that he is correctThe second part of the book jumps to 2016 and I feel that if I told any of the narrative at this point it would rob the novel of its greatest strength It is extremely cleverly written and as the reader progresses through this second part of the novel light will be shed and understanding slowly is realised Levy’s job of taking the reader inside Saul’s head and experiencing what he is experiencing is simply superb The narrative is slowly pieced together from a “fractured” a word used extensively throughout this novel damaged mind The reader along with Saul must sort through these fragmented and sometimes contradictory memories to discover who he really is and what has happenedI may be a little biased because I love these types of novels A novel that you will return to and just like Saul pick up connections and points that you may have missed upon the first read Wonderful 5 Stars


  10. says:

    For the first half of The Man Who Saw Everything I was hooked It’s the 80s and beautiful Saul and peevish Jennifer have just broken up prior to Saul’s research trip to East Berlin Why does Saul hear a typewriter hammering in his head? What is the significance of Abbey Road? It seems like Saul can predict the future?This enigmatic intriguing story with dialogue just slightly off kilter repeating motifs and oneiric inconsistencies was so alluring and I dutifully gobbled up Levy’s bait like foreshadowing Where would this all lead? I found myself paying close attention to the most minute details like a detective on the lookout for cluesBut when the tantalising mystery began to resolve that excitement fell away and the second half of the novel just left me cold I was so ready to be dazzled but instead this ended up feeling like a card trick I’ve seen before It didn’t help that in carefully crafting this narrative of regret and splintered memories Levy positioned lacunae in exactly the places where the emotional impact should be There is poignancy perhaps in grieving the loss of someone you can’t even remember but it is a cold detached kind of poignancySpotting the clues and connections is fun though The Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ appears over and over Luna the ‘pretty nurse’ sings it in a German dacha; the Stasi informers are known as ears and eyes in German Horch und Guck “Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes”; Wolfgang manages hedge funds “a banker in a motor car”; Saul goes to the barber for a shave this last one felt a bit shoehorned in At that level you can play this game all day long but I wanted something deeper from the underlying story 35 stars