Books·Canadian

Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted

A novel by Gary Barwin.

Gary Barwin

Motl is middle-aged, poor, nerdy, Jewish and in desperate need of a shave. Since having his balls shot cleanly off as a youth in WWI, he's lived a quiet life at home in Vilnius with his shrewd and shrewish mom, Gitl, losing himself in the masculine fantasy world of cowboy novels by writers like Karl May—novels equally loved by Hitler, whose troops have just invaded Lithuania and are out to exterminate people like Motl. In his dreams, Motl is a fast-talking, rugged, expert gunslinger capable of dealing with the Nazi threat. But only in his dreams.

As friends and neighbours are killed around them, Motl and Gitl escape from Vilnius, saving their own skins. But they immediately risk everything to try rescue relatives they hope are still alive. With death all around him, Motl decides that a Jew's best revenge is not only to live, but to procreate. In order to achieve this, though, he must relocate those most crucial pieces of his anatomy lost to him in a glacier in the Swiss Alps in the previous war. It's an absurd yet life-affirming mission, made even more urgent when he's separated from his mother, and isn't sure whether she's alive or dead. Joining forces, and eventually hearts, with Esther, a Jewish woman whose family has been killed, Motl ventures across Europe, a kaleidoscope of narrow escapes and close encounters with everyone from Himmler, to circus performers, double agents, quislings, fake "Indians" and real ones. Motl at last figures out that he has more connection to the Indigenous characters in western novels than the cowboys.

An imaginative and deeply felt exploration of genocide, persecution, colonialism and masculinity—saturated in Gary Barwin's sharp wit and perfect pun-play — Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy is a one-of-a-kind novel of sheer genius. (From Random House Canada)

Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted is available in March 2021.

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, visual and multidisciplinary artist and the author of several books of poetry, fiction and books for children. His first novel, 2016's Yiddish for Pirates, won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour as well as a Canadian Jewish Literary Award. It was also a finalist for both the Governor General's Award for fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He lives in Hamilton, Ont.

Interviews with Gary Barwin

Leacock Medal Winner Gary Barwin says the time alone with our thoughts is like our brains are a big Rolodex: you find things you like and things you'd rather forget. It's a reminder how complicated we are as individuals. 51:40

Other books by Gary Barwin

 

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

now