Penguin Modern Classics Famous Last Words Paperback – Jun 28 2005
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Like it 1977 predecessor The Wars, Timothy Findley's 1981 Famous Last Words ruthlessly examines the (often violent) nature of social division and union, as well as the making of history. Together these two novels mark the peak of Findley's career. While the slim Wars focuses largely on a single Canadian soldier in the First World War, Famous Last Words observes the next war--sometimes in the wings, sometimes from a distant office--through expatriate American writer Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. The title character in a well-known poem by the infamous Ezra Pound ("born / In a half savage country-- / Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn"), Mauberley gives Findley a focus point for his forceful moral questions. Can bad people produce good art? (Good anything?) Are actions really excused by explanations?
Findley's career as a professional actor is nowhere more present than in this fascinating novel of revelatory props, coded dialogue, and emblematic settings. Mauberley's participation in an international cabal of intelligentsia and power brokers also lends Famous Last Words the suspense of an espionage novel. This fictional group, devoted to creating a new, post-national Europe, anticipates the migrant fixations of so many of Findley's fellow Canadian novelists. Like the characters of Mordecai Richler, Rohinton Mistry, Guy Vanderhaeghe, and Mavis Gallant, Findley's Mauberley is, in Michael Ondaatje's phrase, another "international bastard--born in one place and choosing to live elsewhere. Fighting to get back to or get away from our homelands all our lives." --Darryl Whetter --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"...has the reader on the edge of his seat with suspense and wonder." -- The Globe and Mail
"Famous Last Words is a brilliant novel, a great one." -- The Edmonton Journal
"Famous Last Words is part thriller, part horror story; it's also a meditation on history and the human soul and it is Findley's fine achievement that he had combined these elements into a web that constantly surprises and astounds the reader." -- The Toronto Star --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The most intriguing part of this novel is the discovery of Mauberly's writings on the walls of a European hotel room and the impending decisions to be made about its historical importance. American soldiers have to decide whether to preserve the historical narrative written by a questionable character or destroy all memory--artistic or otherwise--of a gruesome war.
One gets the sense that Findley is making a post-modern comment on the myth of truth-telling and the conflict between art and politics. But also, the irony of Findlay as storyteller commenting on the subjectivity of storytelling is not lost.
All the Findlay elements are here in this novel: intrigue, mystery, psycho-analysis, and moral ambiguity. It does not have the power or punch of The Wars, but it is a confusingly fascinating read.
"Famous Last Words" is a towering achievement in storytelling.
Set in World War II, the novel follows the exploits of writer Hugh Selwyn Mauberly, a character Findlay has drawn from the
poems of one of this novels secondary characters, Ezra Pound. Yes, That's right, I said secondary characters. The novel,
which examines the curious attraction of Germany to all symbols English spends much more time on the comings and goings of some other
pretty important folk, like German Foriegn Minister Von Ribbentrop, or the real murdered British diplomat Sir Harry Oakes.
Looming large throughout the novel, is the character of the Duchess of Windsor, known forever as Mrs. Simpson.
"Famous Last Words" tells of Mauberly's romantic obsession with Mrs. Simpson. It also proposes the shocking theory that the Nazi's
under Hitler had a unique and unhealthy obsession of its own involving Mrs Simpson and her brurned out hulk of a former king,
Along the way, Findlay masterfully weaves real history with gripping fiction making for a book that facsinates and teaches.
Withn "Famous Last Words" Findlay takes his place amoung the best of his countrymen, including fellow Canadians, Robertson Davis
and Margaret Atwood.
Now that I have a copy again--it's time to re-read and find more treasures.
Most recent customer reviews
Favourite book EVER! Have now read it twice and have given it as a gift 4 times.Published 12 days ago by Amazon Customer
Fantastic book. Tremendous plot and characters. Ingenious writing. A story about the incredible need we have to tell our stories. Read morePublished on March 16 2014 by Annabel Buckely
Timothy Findley's new novel is the result of a poetic and limitless imagination which goes beyond the confines of national boundaries and places him securely among the most... Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2000