[PDF/EPUB] The Man Who Saw Everything author Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy Ñ 1 DOWNLOAD

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 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 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 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 livingFurther 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


The Man Who Saw Everything

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 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

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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 masculin 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 concussionWhen 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 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 incred

  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

  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 he

  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

  5. says:

    Now unsurprisingly shortlisted for the 2019 Goldsmith Prize perhaps a better fit for this brilliant book than the Booker PrizeRe read followin

  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 be

  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 photogra

  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

  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 lea

  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 futureThis enigmatic intriguing story with dialogue just slightly off kilter repeating motifs and oneiric inconsistencie

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