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THE MAN WHO SAW EVERYTHING / Deborah Levy

History teacher, Saul Adler, at 28, bungles through the year 1988 first in London with his girlfriend Jennifer (a photographer) and then in East Germany doing research on Socialist Republics.  In Germany, Saul meets his translator, Walter, and Walter’s mother and sister, Luna.  He becomes entangled in their lives just before the wall is torn down.

Levy writes with exceptional use of concrete detail–always with a sure touch.  Saul is presented as very perceptive, yet detached and absent– as if he inhabits his body like a rented apartment.

This novel is unusual in that half-way through we jump 28 years ahead to 2016.  Aspects of the first half of the story come into question with challenges to Saul’s jumbled memories.  This book should have been called A MAN IN PIECES (the title of a triptych of Jennifer’s photos.)

In the second half (where present and past, inside and outside become blurred) the reader puzzles along with Saul, assembling a truer picture of his life:  growing up with a socialist dad and a blue-collar brother; Saul’s striking good looks; his love life and his insensitivity to the interior lives of others.

Levy has created a fully realized character in Saul Adler and a penetrating exploration of aging with its reevaluation of events and memories of a lifetime.       Don 11/6/2019

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