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
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He goes to New York (even younger now), has meaningless sex with nurses, and traumatises the patients, ripping out their bandages, sticking foreign objects into them before releasing them again, all bloody and broken. He becomes disheartened as the world makes no sense. Doctors should be repairing, not destroying. He leaves again, this time for Europe. He stops over in Spain, then to the Pope, begging for forgiveness. He gets onto a motorcycle and rides into the depths of Central Europe, until he arrives at the one place where his profession, in this reversed time-stream, finally does the right thing. Here, at Auschwitz, he is a healer, not a murderer. And his name is now Odilo Unverdorben. He creates Jews from the ashes of the ovens, from the body heaps, as if their souls fall from heaven onto their naked bodies. At Auschwitz, the world makes sense. After my first read of Time's Arrow (and admittedly it wasn't a very close one), I got the impression that the author spends two thirds of the book gratuitously exploiting the comic possibilities of an inverted tale before getting to the heart of the matter. Indeed, many passages are just Amis showing off, saying "hey, look what I can do!", though they are nonetheless great, comical passages. One example is the passage about the hookers (modern sex is one of Amis's favourite topics), in which the narrator

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