Longslisted for the Booker Prize is a pretty standard blurb for Deborah Levy novels, and this one is a shame because I think it’s very good. And given how weak I felt (one of) the eventual winner(s), this one, along with her other two Swimming Home and Hot Milk were as a well. Maybe in another year.
Saul Adler is a young historian who is beginning research project East Berlin in the summer 1988 when he is struck by a car in the same crosswalk pictured on the cover of the Beatles album Abbey Road, the final recording of the band — though not the final release. He was attempting to recreate the iconic cover when grazed by the car. He’s helped and he moves forward in his life. But as he tells his girlfriend about this her nonreaction to the news sparks a tiff that leads him to give into his desire to have an affair with the German man he will be staying with in Berlin, and his life takes a different course as a consequence.
This novel is about our inability to be fully in control of the understanding of, telling of, or memory of our own lives. In crosswalk, he and the driver have a divisively different interpretation of events, and this sets off the the themes of how we each perceive life itself as it unfolds around us, and how in even the most minor of ways, years later looking back, it’s impossible to understand the changes and differences that can result from this oddly close, but nearly blind view we have of things.