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An Electrifying Novel About Beauty, Envy, And Carelessness From Deborah Levy, Author Of The Booker Prize Finalists Hot Milk And Swimming Home.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, Now, deservedly, longlisted for the 2019 Booker PrizeHello, Saul How s it going I m trying to cross the road, I replied Yes, she said, you ve been trying to cross the road for thirty years but stuff happened on the way The Beatles album Abbey Road the recording sessions for which were the last in which all four participated famously has on its cover no words but just a photograph, taken in August 1969, of the fab four crossing a zebra crossing outside the EMI Studios in the road of that name I say all four but of course the iconic photograph actually contained various clues confirming rumours that Paul McCartney had, in reality, died in a car accident in November 1966 and had been replaced by a look alike William Shears Campbell the funeral procession like setting, with Lennon dressed as an angel, Starr an undertaker, and Harrison the gravedigger the corpse McCartney out of step with the others and barefooted his cigarette held in his wrong hand the numberplate of the strategically placed Beetle 28IF Paul would have been 28 if he was still alive and the mysterious lady with the blue dress on the reverse cover, among others silly objections that he would actually have been 27 not 28 completely miss the symbolic way age is calculated in the eastern mystical cultures important to the late pop idol Further proof of McCartney s death, if any was needed, was that while John Lennon was to produce arguably his finest work after the break up of the Beatles, the supposed McCartney went on to front the band Wings and to compose The Frog Song.The photograph is perhaps the most imitated in pop culture, and Deborah Levy s new novel, The Man Who Saw Everything opens with her narrator Saul Adler not Paul given he is from a Jewish family , a young historian specialising in Eastern Europe, attempting to do the same in 1988, the photo to be taken by his art photographer girlfriend Jennifer Moreau Adler is about to embark on a trip to the GDR the fall of the Berlin Wall one year later unforeseen and the photo is a gift to the sister of his state appointed interpreter, a Beatles fan, although she is rather keener that he brings a tin of hard to obtain pineapple chunks.While traversing the zebra crossing he is struck a glancing blow by a car, causing him minor injuries But various clues alert us that all is not as it seems the driver queries his age see above When I told him I was twenty eight, he didn t believe me and asked for my age again. when he later returns to the scene, the mysterious woman with a blue dress appears While I was thinking about this, a woman came up to me waving an unlit cigarette in her hand She was wearing a blue dress and asked if I had a light. and when the photo is taken Saul who had been trying to play the Lennon part has mysteriously ended up shoeless and actually fulfilling the Paul William role a Damascene conversion perhaps There I was, walking barefoot on the zebra crossing in my white suit with the flared trousers, my hands in the pockets of the white jacket There was a note from Jennifer By the way, it s not John Lennon who walked barefoot That was Paul JL wore white shoes Managed to get you in mid stride like the original, thanks to my trusty stepladder.But Levy s story is than just a retelling of the Paul is Dead conspiracy, Is Saul dead Or is he reliving his mother s death in a car crash And is it actually 1988 at all Saul seems the one person who actually knows the Berlin Wall is about to fall in the next year or is it not 1998 at all but actually 2016 7 and the aftermath of another key moment in European history, Brexit The novel poses many questions and provides few answers as Saul s tale unravels rather confusingly, at times almost surreally, into shifting settings and times, and characters that morph into one another But Levy s focus seems to be surveillance, gender fluidity, betrayal and envy, cyclical time and political dislocation.A novel I hope to revisit later in the year when it is published.Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for the ARC. Now Nominated for the Booker Prize 2019 Deborah 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 laterwhich 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 headI had gazed at my reflection in his wing mirror and my reflection had fallen into meIn 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 questioning 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. 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 quite 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 question 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. 3.5 Charming and funny but possibly slight than it imagines it is and perhaps a bit cute. Now longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize 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 M ller 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 M ller 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 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 Matthew.At 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.As 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 Saul s honesty I smiled at his careful reconstruction of history, blatantly told in his favour 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..When I told him I was twenty eight, he didn t believe me and asked for my age again. Saul and Jennifer make love and then Jennifer abruptly curtails their relationship, saying she is moving to America 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 his sister Luna Luna, an intense ballerina, is obsessed with a Jaguar she believes is roaming near the family s dacha Instead 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 Stasi.But again during this tale, we see some apparent oddites 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 oneThe book then shifts to 2018 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 I smiled at his careful reconstruction of history, blatantly told in his favour I was lying on the road A mobile phone lay next to my hand A male voice inside it was speaking angry and insulting words.When I told him I was twenty eight he didn t believe me. And then Saul finds himself in hospital, 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 Jennifer Moreau, who has oddly aged 30 years whereas Saul is still 28, by his elderly and dying father when Saul points out he buried him in a matchbox, his father says I think you were remembering a very small coffin Jennifer we learn had Saul s son, who then died suddenly at the age of 4, Saul having visited Jennifer when he fell ill, but then deserted her for a quick fling with her neighbour, just before their son died in her arms.And 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 absorbtion, that even oddities are reflections of what he has seen I 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 For 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 head.Certainly this is an intriguing book although perhaps one where the concentration on analogy for example the binary offset of feminine masculine, East West, past present and imagery at one point for example Saul mentions that while he was oppressed by his father, Walter was oppressed by his fatherland rather overtakes a story which lacks interest. I also struggled with Saul as a character 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. Well maybe the fact that you are an intellectual snob might contribute And I also struggled with his communication with Jennifer 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 than a little pretentious Overall though an interesting read and I look forward to reading interviews with the author to understand her intentions as well as reading the views of other Goodreaders, when this book is published.My thanks to Penguin Hamish Hamilton for an ARC via NetGalley. To start with a disclaimer I think most readers would agree that there are some authors who write in a way that somehow, maybe not easily explained, ticks all the boxes for them Deborah Levy is such a writer for me When I read what Levy writes, I can almost feel my brain being re wired to open up new possibilities.Interviewed in April 2018 by The Guardian, Deborah Levy ended by saying I m halfway through my next novel and it is all about masculinity It s about an amazing man and it s called The Man Who Saw Everything.Is this a clue to help us unravel Levy s new novel Yes And no.The pre publication blurb says the book is about beauty, envy, and carelessness Another clue.The book itself contains the phrase about loneliness, love, youth, beauty.That s enough clues What is this book about Well, it s about all of the above and besides It s about living under surveillance whether by state or family It s about Brexit.It s also about the weight of history In her seasonal quartet, Ali Smith is cycling through the seasons while simultaneously showing us how the events of linear time influence one another each book has a historical event that ties to current events Here, Levy uses a man s fractured mind to compress time and run multiple timeframes in parallel She also makes several oblique references to Schrodinger s famous cat experimentWe don t know whether Luna is alive or dead She lifted Hannah on to her lap and start to draw a cat Of course, in Schrodinger s experiment the fate of the cat is unknown until the box is opened It is popularly misinterpreted as simply that, whereas Schrodinger designed his thought experiment to illustrate that the cat was, in fact, simultaneously alive and dead until the box was opened It is not as simple as not knowing until you look in Schrodinger s world, both possibilities exist together until observation when the quantum state collapses to a single outcome.The story, as we read it, begins in 1988 when Saul Adler has a minor road traffic accident while waiting to have his photograph taken by his girlfriend, Jennifer Moreau, on the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing Then she dumps him and they head in opposite directions she to America and he to East Germany We follow Saul to the GDR where he falls in love again than once.But there are hints that things are not quite what they seem Saul seems to have some kind of prescience 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 Saul finds himself telling people about what will happen in the future How does he know I won t spoil the plot, but everything takes on a new perspective at about the halfway point and we realise what we have been reading is not quite what we thought it was.It starts to feel like we are Schrodinger s cat, or that Saul is that cat Simultaneously in two different times, waiting for the observation that will collapse it down to a single outcome that makes sense I am not sure if it is Saul who is waiting for that or the reader.Coincidentally, Saul has been being watched He grew up under an authoritarian father or perhaps he didn t And Jennifer, who took the photographs at the start, is a photographer who made him her prime subject, always watching him, always taking pictures of him.A lot of this book seems to be about the effect of being seen on the person or thing being seen.I became completely engrossed in this book Part of it is because, as I started out by saying, Levy writes in a way that my brain responds too very positively But I also loved the way the story develops and the huge number of ideas Levy throws out I read it all in a single sitting I was fortunate that I had a day of waiting around for something so I could sit and read uninterrupted for a long time I would have been very cross with anyone who tried to take me away from it before I finished.My thanks to Penguin Books for an ARC via NetGalley. 2.5 rounded upI m a massive fan of Deborah Levy s nonfiction but her fiction seems to miss the mark in terms of what I look for in a novel The Man Who Saw Everything opens with our protagonist, Saul, at Abbey Road, his girlfriend taking a photo of him at the infamous zebra crossing The story then jumps around between locations and time frames a lot which I found pretty confusing and disorientating for the first 50% Levy just about pulls it off in the end thanks to her deft way with words, but in future I think I ll stick to her nonfiction offerings Thank you Netgalley and Penguin Books UK for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review. I was intrigued and puzzled from the very first paragraph beginning in London, 1988.Saul 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 breakup.there 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 questionsGET 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 requested 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 book.As 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 story.I leave you with one word to ponder displacement Thank You Nicole for sending me this book Oh 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 Reading this as the Booker Prize longlist was announced and I can completely see how it made the cut I m loving all the Levy love This was also weirdly perfect reading after seeing the film Yesterday on Monday night.