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Penguin Modern Classics Famous Last Words Paperback – Jun 28 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (June 28 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143051415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143051411
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #130,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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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Format: Paperback
Interesting that The Wars deals with the First World War and one man's personal transformation both before the war and during it. Famous Last Words, in a sense, picks up where the other novel left off. While the author's fictional protagonist/antagonist Mauberly is the inadvertent co-narrator of the story, the novel really focuses on varying characters and motives both during and after the Second World War.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Crisply written, suspensfull, and with a cast from the pages of 20th centuary history,
"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,
Edward VIII.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Findley's "Famous Last Words" is an excellent novel, although sometimes wordy. In reading other works by Findley I found many similarities in the plot. Findley truly mixes fact and fiction in a believable fashion. This book was set well before my time, but I found Findley's use of fiction was in all the right places. The main plot of the secret underbelly of a fascist conspiracy to take over Europe transpiring before, during, and after WWII that featured a writer named Maulberely was interesting but confusing. Famous Last Words is unique, and exciting, providing the realization that not everything is as it seems...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading this makes you realize what we lost when Tiff Findlay died. This must be my fourth or fifth copy that I've ordered since I tend to give them away--often to Americans who wonder what we write up here. And every recipient has been blown away and gone on to read more or even visit Canada again because of Findlay's thoughtful work. This book can be read at several levels--it's a good mystery/thriller; it's a sardonic social commentary; and it's a finely written novel that keeps the reader turning the page.

Now that I have a copy again--it's time to re-read and find more treasures.
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