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The Man Who Saw Everything

de Deborah Levy

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4632853,956 (3.81)59
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.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 28 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Not read. Unengaged by the first few pages. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
I'm late to the party with this one, which was nominated for the 2019 Booker Prize, the Goldsmith Prize, the George Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Fiction. Since The Man Who Saw Everything was published in 2019, Deborah Levy has released another novel called August Blue, (reviewed at The Guardian here.)

Everybody's read and reviewed Deborah Levy's The Man Who Saw Everything already: Brona at This Reading Life; Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best; Madame Bibliophile who reviewed it for A Novella A Day in May and a heap of the good people I follow at Goodreads including Paul Fulcher. But it was a conversation about the Writer's Prize at Messenger's Booker which prompted me to check up on my reserve at the library, which I'd placed in May 2023 after reading Madame Bibliophile's review. Hmpf, the reserve had 'expired', so I promptly reserved it again at my local library and it came through for me within the week.

The Man Who Saw Everything is as good as everybody says, and I agree that 'the less said about it, the better' because there's a plot twist half way through whose impact would be spoiled if readers know about it in advance. So I shall confine myself to the first part of the book which is about as conventional as Deborah Levy gets in this novel...

In 1988 the young historian Saul Adler is about to set off for East Berlin in the GDR, when he is hit by a car on the Abbey Road. Yes, the famous Beatles' album one. So famous that his girlfriend Jennifer Moreau, a photographer destined to become famous, has staged the same photo, dragging along a step ladder to get the vantage point correct and holding up the traffic herself because she doesn't have the police there to do it for her, like the Beatles did in 1969.

Saul isn't badly hurt, and, still confused and hurt that Jennifer has dumped him, off he goes to the GDR to research resistance to fascism before the rise of Hitler. It is two months before the Fall of the Wall, but this glimpse of daily life in East Berlin gives no hint of that except for Saul's prescient comments to his translator Walter Müller and Walter's sister Luna, but neither of them believe him anyway because of the ubiquitous surveillance and the probability that they are being set up by the Stasi. Only the (alert) reader will wonder, how does he know that?

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2024/01/27/the-man-who-saw-everything-2019-by-deborah-l... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jan 26, 2024 |
Saul Adler has two accidents on Abbey Road.

In the first in 1988 he escapes with minor scratches and a few bruises. In the second he suffers more serious brain and bodily injuries. His friends and relatives gather around his bed as though he has little time to live.

Figuring out where author is going with these two bookends in her novel, “The Man Who Knew Everything,” I admit was a challenge.

Adler is a 28-year-old historian when he has first accident. He is the subject of a photo shoot by his lover Jennifer Moreau. He is about to depart on a research mission to East Berlin to study socialist youth groups under Nazi occupation. His translator’s sister is a big Beatles fan so he is engineering this photo shoot to please her and, presumably, her brother.

When Adler gets to East Berlin he discovers an infatuation with his German translator and the two become lovers. He then is apparently seduced by the sister and begins a brief affair with her as well.

After the second accident Adler tosses over in his mind the meaning of earlier events, confuses physicians with East German Stasi informers, and his relatives for other players in his earlier life.

Adler visits East Berlin before the wall between east and west came down. His second accident occurs after Englishmen voted to leave the European Union. One wall comes down, another wall goes up. It is almost as though Adler walks through a crease in the universe from one reality to another. Or maybe between parallel universes.

Ironically, one of the big hits of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album was “Come Together”. A song which presaged the disintegration of the band.

And why has Levy named her narrator (I hesitate to use the word “hero” because he is most unheroic) “Saul Adler?”

Alfred Adler, a protege of Sigmund Freud, helped launch the profession of psychotherapy and emphasized the importance of the social element in the readjustment process of the individual (Wikipedia). He popularized the idea of the inferiority complex, and its sister concept, the superiority complex.

At a time when social and political walls play such a huge role in public discourse it is a fine mirror for Levy’s story. The Biblical Saul was the first king of a united Israel in the 11th century BCE.

And while Saul knows a lot — including some things about the future — he is sadly ignorant about his own role in society, in relationships, and about his own nature. And here is where satire on our Information age comes into the story.

I am still trying to figure out why Levy named her heroine “Jennifer Moreau,” perhaps after the most famous French actress of the modern era, Jeanne Moreau. Moreau’s only son, Jerome, was seriously injured in a car accident. ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
I was absolutely poleaxed by this book - beautifully written and doing a phenomenal amount with relatively few words. I don't want to say too much about it for fear of spoilers, but definitely my book of the year so far. ( )
  Helen.Callaghan | Aug 28, 2023 |
This book staggered me. I knew nothing about it in advance of picking it up. I found it fascinating, beautifully written, completely engaging, and populated by rich characters. It is one of those rare (for me) books that I will reread. I do not know how to tell anything of the substance or story without distorting some of it, so ... read this book! ( )
  RickGeissal | Aug 16, 2023 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Deborah Levyautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Åsefeldt, EvaTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Blagden, GeorgeNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Boelens, KoenTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Bok, AnnekeTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Poetic thought, unlike rootless orchids, did not grow in a greenhouse and did not faint when confronted with today's traumas.
Karel Teige, The Shooting Gallery (1946)
To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.
Susan Sontag, 'In Plato's Cave', from On Photography (1977)
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It's like this, Saul Adler: when I was twenty-three I loved the way you touched me, but when the afternoon slipped in and you slipped out of me, you were already looking for someone else.
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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.

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