Time's Arrow by Martin Amis Essay

Time's Arrow by Martin Amis Essay

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Time's Arrow by Martin Amis

Life is no bowl of cherries. Sometimes you can't explain everything. You just can't, and Martin Amis knows this. Time's Arrow is a book on the holocaust. There is nothing new about its material, and it makes no attempt at explaining anything. So why bother reading (or writing) it? What separates this book from your average "holocaust book" is that this really will, as it says on the backcover, present you with a "different" perspective. Time's Arrow is not your typical holocaust book. It does more than just make your head think - it takes you through the whole ordeal backwards.
The story begins on the main character's deathbed, and through him the author explores how life would appear, how it would feel and what sense it would seem to make if it were like a film running backwards - if time's arrow were to reverse its direction and allow us to watch history unfold itself, line by line, gesture by gesture, until we are sucked back into our mothers' wombs. Hence construction becomes destruction, healing is wounding, age is youth, future turns into history and so on. As you can imagine, things can get rather confusing (luckily, Amis keeps the words in dialogues in the normal order).
The story is told in the first-person and third-person, first-person being the innocent narrator who sees things backwards and third-person the doctor whose body the narrator is for some unknown reason trapped in. Bar the fact that it is in reverse, the plot is simple: The narrator wakes up from his deathbed and discovers that he is living his life backwards. He finds out that he is a doctor, living in small-town America. His name is Tod Friendly. He gets younger and comes out of retirement, breaking up with ...


... middle of paper ...


...okay-I'm-okay" to characterise America.
Since his arrival in the mid-seventies, Martin Amis has been the enfant terrible of the British lit scene. Many critics consider him to be a masterful writer enginned by a banal, unoriginal mind, while others think he is simply one step ahead. The same critics would probably argue that style and technique supersedes feeling, sensibility and morality in Time's Arrow. Indeed, there are occasions when Amis' cleverness does undercut the moralism he is trying to convey, but that is not due to faulty morals, but to the extraordinary flair that he possesses. Even if you don't want to hear what Amis has to say about the holocaust, read this book - if nothing else, going through time backwards might just teach you the good parts of life that people tend to miss going forwards.


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