Irish O'Faolain, the author of some 20-odd books who is best known for his short stories, here presents a playful and oddly moving chronicle about a man touched by the gods. In a tone alternately whimsical and serious but always evocative, O'Faolain, now in his late 70s, turns what at first seems like eccentricity into a lively exploration of mortality. Robert Younger, doomed at 65, in 1965, to be run over by a truck, will be saved by the Department of External Affairs, Mt. Olympus, if he agrees to live his life backwards so that the gods can decide ""whether what you humans call experience teaches you a damned thing."" Younger accepts at the decisive moment; the gods give him a public identity, but he must trace down his ""true character and disposition."" The plot sets Younger moving against chronology; he grows younger as everyone else ages, and O'Faolain expertly manipulates the resulting vertigo. Early on, Younger discovers Ana, with whom he'd earlier had a 30-year affair, and she fills his empty memory-chest; in 1970, when she dies, he has a 20-year relationship with her daughter Anador, winning her over with love letters cribbed from Balzac and Hugo. By the 1990's, he's turned himself into his own father and married Nana, Anador's daughter, to whom he explains all. Much social intrigue involving husbands and relations culminates when Nana exiles him to a school in Houston (the years 2015-2020), where, found out, he flees back home. On his 127th birthday in the year 2030, Nana is reduced to cultivating him ""like a silkworm in its pupal stage"" before he disappears entirely and the whole thing threatens to begin again. A fresh, original treatment of an old science-fiction clichâ€š and a literal sendup of narrative deconstruction. Rendered in quirky, rich language, the novel--with the exception of a few tedious sections--is an entertainment with serious metaphorical undertones and exquisite balance.