Gary Barwin’s Holocaust-themed novel voted 2023 Hamilton Reads selection

July 2023
Wendy Schneider

Gary Barwin’s latest novel, Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy, has been voted the 2023 Hamilton Reads selection. The book was favourably compared by Quill and Quire to the 1997 Italian film, Life is Beautiful, “in daring to find humour and tenderness in the Holocaust.”

In a promotional video released by the Hamilton Public Library, Barwin spoke about an incident that took place at his wedding, when a videographer interviewed various members of the family.  Aware that his words were being recorded for posterity, Barwin’s grandfather stared into the camera and “with an intensity I’d never seen, spoke of the horrors of the Holocaust in his birthplace of Lithuania and of his family, neighbours, whole communities, and of an entire world that was extinguished.”

Barwin is the author of 26 books. His novel, Yiddish for Pirates, won the Leacock Medal for Humour and the Canadian Jewish Literary Award, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was long listed for Canada Reads.

While the Holocaust forms the backdrop to his latest novel, which tells the story of a middle-aged Jewish man who fantasizes about being a cowboy, and goes on an eccentric quest across Europe after the 1941 Nazi invasion of Lithuania, Barwin says he tried to tell his story with humour, believing it to be  “a powerful tool to deal with adversity and take agency even in the midst of the most difficult times.”