Barney’s Version – The Life of a Trice Married Canadian

Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler is an autobiography written by Barney Panofsky, a Jewish Canadian living in Montreal. He separates his story into three sections, one for each of his ex-wives. His first section on his ex-wife Clara spans from 1950-1952, from the day they meet to her suicide. He then goes moves onto his second wife, who is only known as the second Mrs. Panofsky. He is only married to his second wife for two years of his life from 1958-1960 as she is found to be cheating on him with his best friend. Barney is later accused of murdering this best friend, Boogie. His third and final wife is married to him for almost 30 years. Miriam still holds his heart despite their divorce.

When first looking at the three parts of the novel I thought that the story would be told chronologically (the dates he is married to each wife is stated at the beginning of each part, so one might assume that those would be the dates that the), but Barney tells his story in a very non-linear way weaving in and out of his stories, pausing half way through one story to tell another that he finds more interesting. When I first started reading it, I found it to be confusing and slightly annoying, but as I became accustomed to his storytelling technique I began to enjoy it. His odd sense of story telling reminded me of my first impression of GGRW, where I was constantly confused in the beginning, but as I got to the end, the change in perspectives, just was another part of the story, not a burden when reading.

As Barney goes through the novel his memory of certain events begins to diminish as he is suffering from Alzheimer’s. He is an unreliable narrator. But I feel that this unreliability makes him more human and realistic. I mean who really remembers every second of their life well enough to present it reliably enough in an autobiography without making some mistakes?

I’m excited to start looking for Canadian-ness allusions. There are a lot of obvious allusions to Canadian-ness (i.e. Barney is stereotypically obsessed with hockey even going so far as listening to the game on his wedding night), but I look forward to looking for those not-so-obvious allusions.


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