A passing familiarity with block universe theory might aid understanding of Deborah Levy’s seventh novel, The Man Who Saw Everything. In keeping with the laws of quantum space-time (block universe theory deems that past, present and future all exist simultaneously), memories and intimations of the future merge in the mind of the historian Saul Adler, the titular Man Who Saw Everything, in the surreal and resonant fashion that is typical of Levy’s work. Rather like Ali Smith’s How to Be Both, this is a novel of two parts that revolve around the same event in different times. Adler is struck by a car while crossing Abbey Road in London, first in 1988, then in 2016. The first section covers his break-up with his photographer girlfriend, Jennifer Moreau, and trip to the German Democratic Republic, where he is surveilled by – and falls in love with – his translator, Walter Müller. Adler sleeps not only with Walter but also with his sister, Luna. He knows himself to be a ‘careless man’.
Adler is also a ‘man in pieces’, something reflected in the overlapping collage of thoughts about his life: fragments to do with a traumatic childhood, dead parents, confusion in love, missing persons, a dead child. ‘Perhaps I was history itself,’ he muses, ‘flailing around in a number of