Before his brain began to shrink, Barney Panofsky clung to two cher-ished beliefs. Life was absurd, and nobody ever truly understood any-body else. Even his friends tend to agree that Barney is 'a wife-abuser, an intellectual fraud, a purveyor of pap, a drunk with a pen-chant for violence and probably a murderer'. But when his sworn enemy threatens to publish this calumny, Barney is driven to write his own memoirs, rewinding the spool of his life, editing, selecting and plagiarising, as his memory plays tricks on him - and on the reader. Ebullient and perverse, he has seen off 3 wives before running off with a sober academic. Houdini-like, Barney slides from crisis to success, from lowlife to highlife in Montreal, Paris and London, his outrageous exploits culminating in the scandal he carries around like a humpback - the murder charge that he goes on denying to the end.
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Barney Panofsky smokes too many cigars, drinks too much whiskey and is obsessed with two things: the Montreal Canadiens hockey team and his ex-wife Miriam. An acquaintance from his youthful years in Paris, Terry McIver, is about to publish his autobiography. In its pages he accuses Barney of an assortment of sins, including murder. It's time, Barney decides, to present the world with his own version of events. Barney's Version is his memoir, a rambling, digressive rant, full of revisions and factual errors (corrected in footnotes written by his son) and enough insults for everyone, particularly vegetarians and Quebec separatists.
But Barney does get around to telling his life story, a desperately funny but sad series of bungled relationships. His first wife, an artist and poet, commits suicide and becomes--à la Sylvia Plath--a feminist icon, and Barney is widely reviled for goading her toward death, if not actually murdering her. He marries the second Mrs Panofsky, whom he calls a "Jewish- Canadian Princess", as an antidote to the first; it turns out to be a horrible mistake. The third, "Miriam, my heart's desire", is quite possibly his soul mate, but Barney botches this one too. It's painful to watch him ruin everything, and even more painful to bear witness to his deteriorating memory. The mystery at the heart of Barney's story--did he or did he not kill his friend Boogie?--provides enough forward momentum to propel the reader through endless digressions, all three wives, and every one of Barney's nearly heartbreaking episodes of forgetfulness. Barney's Version, winner of Canada's 1997 Giller Prize, is Richler's 10th novel, and a dense, energetic and ultimately poignant read. -- R. EllisAbout the Author:
Born in Montreal, Mordecai Richler is the author of nine novels, numerous screenplays, children's books, essays and journalism, and has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize - for St Urbain's Horseman and Solomon Gursky Was Here, which was also awarded the Comonwealth Writer's Prize. He lived in London during the Sixties and now lives with his wife in his native Quebec.
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Book Description Vintage/Ebury (a Division of Random, 1998. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0099939207