book review: The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy



Bloomsbury, 2019


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 talk about this book’s themes than its actual plot, but I don’t want to suggest that my interpretation is the be all end all, because this is the sort of book that lends itself to discussions and contradictions.  Above all else this is book is about memory – are we more than our memories, or are our memories all we are – but what also stuck out to me was Levy’s deft meditation on what it means to age, what it means to live as a foreigner abroad, what it means to love, what it means to be a part of a culture’s shifting landscape.  It seems like a tall order to balance all of this in just under 200 pages while also prioritizing structural innovation, but this book is a case of form and content coming together perfectly.  I wouldn’t change a single page – a single sentence – of this book, and I cannot say that often.

That said, I understand why this hasn’t worked for some readers, especially those who err on the side of more traditional storytelling, but for anyone who’s willing to take a risk, and willing to stumble blindly through the dark at times, you can rest easy with the confidence that Levy knows exactly what she is doing here.  I can say with absolute confidence that I am going to reread this at some point, and I’m sure I’ll find it even more revelatory when I do.

You can pick up a copy of The Man Who Saw Everything here on Book Depository.

11 thoughts on “book review: The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy

  1. Ooh, this sounds great! For some reason I just wasn’t sold when I first read the synopsis, but my library finally got a copy and I’m thinking about rounding out my journey through the Booker longlist anyway, so… it’s nice to finally be excited about this one! I’m so glad you loved it! The focus on memory sounds appealing to me, and the weaving/unweaving structure. And, of course, the short page count. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The synopsis didn’t sell me either! I don’t know why I decided to pick it up, actually, other than that it was available at my library and was short. I can’t wait for you to read it, I am dying to discuss it with someone!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sometimes I think the library just knows what we need better than we do, lol. It looks like I’m next up on the hold list already, so I’ll probably be reading in early December. Looking forward to it!


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