Longlisted for the Booker Prize
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, East and West, past and present--to reveal the full spectrum of our world.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Deborah Levy’s elegant and startling novel—her third to be long-listed for the prestigious Booker Prize—takes place in two acts, set 28 years apart. When obsessive historian Saul Adler is hit by a car on a London street, the trajectory of his life is changed forever. Or at least that’s what we’re asked to believe: Saul is the definition of an unreliable narrator. This becomes especially apparent in the novel’s fluid second half, when a second accident propels Saul’s disjointed recollections into a kind of exquisite delirium. A powerful meditation on memory, love, and betrayal, The Man Who Saw Everything captures the essence of what connects us as human beings—and exposes the barriers that keep us from ever truly understanding one another.
Booker Prize finalist Levy (Hot Milk) explores the fragile connections and often vast chasms between self and others in this playful, destabilizing, and consistently surprising novel. The book's first half, set in late 1988, unfolds fairly straightforwardly as young historian Saul Adler, living in London, prepares to travel to communist East Berlin to conduct academic research in exchange for writing a complimentary piece about East Germany's economic miracle. He asks his girlfriend, a talented photographer, to take his photo in the famed Abbey Road crosswalk, as a gift for the Beatles-obsessed sister of his German translator. But as he crosses the road, he is hit by a car and in many ways, his trip, and perhaps his entire life, changes course. In Germany, Saul both falls in love with and later betrays his translator, Walter, even as he suspects Walter is implicated in the East German surveillance machine. Jump forward to 2016, and another car accident in the same crosswalk upends everything the reader (not to mention Saul himself) has come to expect up to that point. The novel's first half may read like a fairly conventional portrait of a narcissistic young man intent on sabotaging his romantic relationships, but the second half is both impressionistic and profound, interrogating divisions between East and West, past and present, fact and fiction, and even life and death. The greatest divide Levy plumbs, however, is the one between the self and other, as Saul reluctantly acknowledges both his culpability in his own life's tragedies and his insignificance in others' narratives. Levy's novel brilliantly explores the parallels between personal and political history, and prompts questions about how one sees oneself and what others see.