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The Man Who Saw Everything

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,704 ratings  ·  357 reviews
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
Hardcover, 199 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published August 29th 2019)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  1,704 ratings  ·  357 reviews

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May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
On the Booker Longlist!

For 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 questions and more 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
Adam Dalva
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Elyse (semi hiatus) Walters
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read, 2019-booker, uk
Nominated for the Booker Prize 2019
Nominated for the Goldsmiths 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
Gumble's Yard
Now unsurprisingly shortlisted for the 2019 Goldsmith Prize - perhaps a better fit for this brilliant book than the Booker Prize.

Re-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.
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
So, this is a novel about how some people need to be more 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?
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 more meaning on a second go-round. Reading it more 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 more of an emotional ...more
Andrew Smith
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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 ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This doesn't come out in the states until October but this might be the book that finally wins Deborah Levy her Man Booker Prize! I love how it starts as one kind of novel and then plays with expectations, while the writing is still able to resonate deeply with the reader. This is a novel to be experienced so don't read a lot about it, just read it.

I did get early access from the publisher through NetGalley after someone at NG helped me with a file issue, but even though this is on the MB
Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2018
Shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2019

Deborah Levy's books are often a little difficult to decode, and I found this one a bit of a struggle, not least because I struggled to find much sympathy for the narrator Saul Adler. In the first half of the book we meet him in 1988 in his late 20s - he is a university lecturer who specialises in studying Eastern European communist regimes. He is hit by a car while crossing the famous zebra crossing on Abbey Road
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Saul Adler is more 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
Paul Fulcher
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Now, deservedly, longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize

‘Hello, 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
Now re-read as publication day approaches and after its inclusion on the Booker Prize longlist.

If I were to create a list of books that require (not just deserve) a second reading, I think I would put this one at the top. On my first reading, I highlighted several passages as I saw them refer back to earlier parts of the book, but, of course, I could not look in the other direction. On a second read, I was able to use my knowledge of the book to look forwards and the number of highlights rose
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
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
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had I read this book ten years ago, I’m sure I would have hated it. But this is 2019, and not 2009, and I ended up really liking this story.

For the first couple of pages, and because this was my introduction to Levy’s writing I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought this was going to be a straightforward read. Man meets woman, they fall in love, etc. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was as far from straightforward as you can get. Metaphors and symbolism everywhere and in
Peter Boyle
Aug 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: booker-nominee
This is such a clever book. Though at times the plot was so elusive I couldn't help find it frustrating. I'm sure I missed certain motifs and allusions but on the whole, it was an enjoyable read.

The story begins in 1988. Saul Adler is our protagonist, a handsome 28-year-old historian. On his way to meet his girlfriend Jennifer, he is hit by a car on Abbey Road, but apparently left unscathed. He proposes to Jennifer - instead she breaks up with him. A little glum, Saul travels to Berlin so that
Simply put, one of the most rewarding reading experiences I’ve ever had. I think it’s best to approach this book while knowing as little as possible about it, so I’m not really going to talk about the plot. Instead I’ll just say that this book is like Penelope’s tapestry; Levy weaves a brilliant tale in the first act, only to unweave it halfway through and then stitch it back together, and she does it carefully without sacrificing either the details or the big picture.

It’s arguably easier to
Roman Clodia
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well done, Deborah Levy, on cramming so much thoughtful stuff into such a relatively short book: in little more than 200pp she makes us think about reflections and connections, about time and space, about history and its formation, about families and love affairs, about death and living, about Europe and its divisions, about spectres that haunt from the future (Marx's 'there is a spectre haunting Europe') and from the past, about gender and its porosity ('he told me I was the Marie Antoinette of ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it
(3.5) It’s best to read this book cold, not primed by reviews that provide too much information about the plot, so I’m going to give only the barest of details. The narrative revolves around the apparently surpassingly beautiful and self-absorbed Saul Adler, a 28-year-old graduate student in history. As the novel opens, it is 1988, and he is preparing to travel to the German Democratic Republic to conduct research on cultural opposition to the rise of fascism in the 1930s. However, he has a ...more
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
(3.5) Charming and funny but possibly more slight than it imagines it is and perhaps a bit cute.
It is London, the year 1988. Saul Adler, a 28-year-old historian, is grazed by a car while attempting to cross Abbey Road, a street made famous by the Beatles’ breakup album cover. The driver’s wing mirror is shattered during the accident. But why does the driver, stepping out to apologize, possess a device that resembles a cellphone (this being the 80s)? And why does he doubt Adler’s age? Moreover, why is the driver interested in Adler’s profession and the age of his girlfriend?

So begins Levy’s
Anna Luce
Sep 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who enjoy Rachel Cusk, Jeanette Winterson, Yukio Mishima, or Samuel Beckett's plays
3 all bark no bite stars

For readers in want of an incisive and creative account of life in East Germany, I strongly recommend picking up something by Christa Wolf.
I think that from now on I might stick to Deborah Levy's non-fiction.

While I'm glad to see that many of my friends and other readers were able to enjoy this latest release by Deborah Levy, I found it to be yet another example of all flash no substance.

There is little to no depth or feeling in the story and characters of this
Anita Pomerantz
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review to follow, but I will say for sure that this book won't be everyone's cup of tea. But I love Levy, and this book was no exception. It's not at all science fiction, but it evoked a lot of the same feelings I had when I watched the movie, Inception, in the sense that the reader is not spoon fed a plot.

UPDATED thoughts:

This book blows my mind. Levy is a rare talent, and here she plays with structure and an unreliable narrator while still using straightforward, accessible prose
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Levy is kinda brilliant. This sly, subtle novel is ultimately about human connection and how one can “see” and remember another person or situation. The MC Saul is very focused on his own outer beauty, and never really connects with those around him. This observation is frequently mixed with references to mirrors and photos, which can capture an image without really conveying much of what’s behind it. Cracked mirrors and cut up photos show how perceptions can be distorted, much like Saul’s ...more
Nov 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-19
Meh ... this never really engaged me but I did like the writing. Give me Rushdie over this one any day ;)
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure what just happened but it felt kind of wonderful going along for the ride.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
The writing (as always with Levy) is very good and the structure quite interesting. Reading this is a bit like watching someone else assemble a jigsaw puzzle in a manner that is as obscure as the picture unfolding.

If I had cared more about Saul Adler - or Jennifer or Luna or just about every other character - I would have appreciated what Levy is doing here to a greater extent. As it was, this became more of an intellectual enterprise than a true reading pleasure. The Cemetery in Barnes handles
2.5 rounded up

I'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,
Jaclyn Crupi
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
This was brilliant! An elegant, elegiac and introspective novel about a man's life and relationships.

It's a shame that this wasn't shortlisted for the Booker but it should go on to win other major prizes in the Anglophone world.
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Deborah Levy trained at Dartington College of Arts leaving in 1981 to write a number of plays, highly acclaimed for their "intellectual rigour, poetic fantasy and visual imagination", including PAX, HERESIES for the Royal Shakespeare Company, CLAM, CALL BLUE JANE, SHINY NYLON, HONEY BABY MIDDLE ENGLAND, PUSHING THE PRINCE INTO DENMARK and MACBETH-FALSE MEMORIES, some of which are published in ...more
“I had lost my job. I was no longer officially a minor historian. Perhaps I was history itself, flailing around in a number of directions, sometimes all of them at the same time.” 0 likes
“I wasn’t in the mood to talk. The mournful sound of the rubber wheels of the tea trolley squeaking on the lino floor was the right soundtrack for the end of the world. Sometimes the tea lady lost her grip and the trolley hit the corners of the walls and beds. It was the equivalent of waterfalls and parrots in my new terrible world.” 0 likes
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