The novel Barney?s Version by Mordecai Richler is an exquisite illustration of an author?s attention to detail in regard to the first person narrative. The story of Barney Panofsky, Mordecai Richler’s mercurial comic creation, sets an astringent standard of political incorrectness in present-day Canada. The dominant voice of the novel is Barney’s, taken from the manuscript he left behind following his commitment to a nursing home. He tends to forget or confuse dates, so occasional footnotes supplied by his son and editor, Michael, correct his factual errors. Barney makes one of these mistakes while discussing a girl he noticed in Paris. ?She lowered her eyes, pouted, and reached for the book in her straw shoulder bag, Bonjour tristesse, 2 by Fran?ois Sagan, and began to read. 2 It had to be some other book, as Bonjour tristesse wasn?t published until 1954? (30). The reader learns in the novel’s final pages that Richler’s protagonist suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
The importance of Richler?s decision to have Barney tell his own story is self evident throughout the novel because the reader gains an understanding of everything that goes on in Barney?s mind. Although he sometimes admittedly shapes his memoirs so that he appears in the best light possible, he is, like anyone else, only trying to remember his past in a way that makes him comfortable with who he is.