Saturday, March 28, 2020

Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy's latest novel is The Man Who Saw Everything.

From her Q&A with Martha Greengrass at the Waterstones blog:

The title of the book, The Man Who Saw Everything, seems to play both on Saul’s naïve belief in his own sagacity and the relationship between sight and insight. To what extent did you want to explore the space between what we see and what we understand in this novel?

My novel is more about the space between what we see and misunderstand, rather than understand. It feels really bad to be misunderstood, so that’s rich territory to explore in a fiction. Surveillance is a major theme in The Man Who Saw Everything and I give my attention to this theme on a number of levels –the ways in which we watch each other and the ways in which the state (in this case, communist East Germany in 1988) watches us.

For a start, I explore a 30-year relationship/argument between Saul and Jennifer. How do they see each other over three decades? They love each other and betray each other, but they do come to an understanding about the value of their long attachment.

Is it possible or desirable to see everything? After all, love has to be blind, because if we saw everything in each other (good and bad) we would probably run a mile.

The opening chapter leaves the striking image of Saul aping the Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road cover photograph. It’s a visual marker that echoes throughout the rest of the novel. It made me think about the nature of photography, of the captured scene, and what it says and what it doesn’t (or cannot) say about a real, living moment in time. How did that image come to take root so deeply in The Man Who Saw Everything?

Yes, I wanted to create a very definite sense of place in Britain because The Man Who Saw Everything slips between time zones and other places - including Germany and America. The novel often returns to the Abbey Road crossing. I spent quite a lot of time on the Abbey Road watching tourists take photos of each other walking across that iconic Zebra. Everyone seems to enjoys the action of crossing that road, often adding new, absurd poses that are different but reference the original album cover. It’s as if they have been given a structured space (the zebra crossing) to fool around. It occurred to me that the road is a mildly dangerous place – everyone has to strike a pose before a car runs them over, so they haven’t got that long to take the photo. When Jennifer takes that photograph of Saul crossing the Abbey Road, I had...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue