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Time's Arrow

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  7,274 ratings  ·  585 reviews
In Time's Arrow the doctor Tod T. Friendly dies and then feels markedly better, breaks up with his lovers as a prelude to seducing them, and mangles his patients before he sends them home. And all the while Tod's life races backward toward the one appalling moment in modern history when such reversals make sense.

"The narrative moves with irresistible momentum.... [Amis is]...more
Paperback, 168 pages
Published September 29th 1992 by Vintage (first published September 1991)
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingPride and Prejudice by Jane AustenEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardBreaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer1984 by George Orwell
Best Ending
101st out of 986 books — 1,734 voters
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Best Experimental Books Ever
101st out of 730 books — 1,183 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jessica
Dec 21, 2011 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: backwards-minded types
She can't help it if her best isn't very good, but she's done it. She's ploddingly typed out her half-assedly apropos review, then clicked on the stars -- three of them, yellow and cartoony, her blithe summation of an author's painstakingly wrought offering to twentieth-century literature. He'll probably spend years writing then researching this thing, which she's already rated like it's an eBay-seller transaction, and reviewed with all the thoughtfulness and care of an Adderall-snorting thirtee...more
Cecily
A short book that is one long gimmick: clever as a writing exercise, but not worth publishing or reading. Once the novelty of a backwards story has worn off, there is little point to it and I lost interest (though I did finish it). And it's not even that novel: Kurt Vonnegut had the same idea as a brief scene in "Slaughterhouse Five" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...).

It opens with painfully vivid descriptions of a life-and death emergency. It turns out to be the story of one man's life,...more
Robert Farwell
I liked the prose and liked the execution, but there was still something a bit off. A tooth is missing in time's reverse cog making this Amis story rock rather than roll in reverse. I enjoyed the narrative told backward; extracting the real meaning while reading the meaning back to front is a funky brain trick. I loved having a Nazi doctor at the center of the story. The movement from physical and moral corruption to a form of innocence uncovered a bit more of the lizard brain for me.

The problem...more
Jen
English Standard Version (©2001)
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.


“What is it with them, the human beings? I suppose they remember what they want to remember.”
-Time’s Arrow


This is what I want to remember: that I bought this off a wheeled cart for two quarters. That in a bad economy, this was a great investment. Amis is genius in this book. Pure genius. His structure starts with the last rattling...more
David Lentz
"Time's Arrow" is a very fine and powerful novel by Amis who, for me, had a tough encore after reading his genius novel, "Money," of which stratospheric literary level "Time's Arrow" falls a smidge short. However, "Time's Arrow" is very well conceived, highly inventive, lyrically narrated and powerful in its dire themes ultimately relating to one man's poignant personal relationship to the Holocaust. Amis deploys with great skill the narrative device of telling one man's story backward in a disc...more
Beverly
Jan 21, 2008 Beverly rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who don't care for Martin Amis's other books
It continues to amaze me how those who claim to be fans of Martin Amis haven't heard of or read Time's Arrow. This book is a masterpiece in experimental fiction. He literally, methodically, writes the story backwards as his character experiences time going backwards. I don't know of any other author who has attempted and succeeded in doing this. It's been a while since I read it, but what I remember was the uncanny sense that I was experiencing time backwards as I read it. I began questioning wh...more
Chris
After reading the first page of this book and realising that Amis was actually going to write a novel with time moving backwards I thought he must have some brilliant notion that required and would more than excuse the use of such an gimmicky device. I was willing to overlook all the technical and conceptual failings and inconsistencies in execution, on grounds of artistic licence, with the faith that the payoff would be so clever, insightful and illuminating theses trivial concerns would pale i...more
Allycks
Normally when I sense that a writer is going to pull a stunt with the entire conceit of his or her novel, I end up with a slow disdainful Billy Idol-style grimace developing on my face before thudding against the glass ceiling of disgust and shutting the book for good.

Don't do it, Martin. You don't have to dazzle us with a technical feat like this. You're too good for that. And it's called "trying too hard..."

Still, Martin must've been kicking around novel ideas when, probably a little buzzed, g...more
Michael
I can't say enough about this novel, though a quick glance at my friends' reviews reveals that they liked it but were not quite as blown away by it. I loved how Amis took a conceit (running the world backwards and witnessing it from a naive viewpoint that must make sense of backwards-living) and used it to make new something that had grown shopworn and overfamiliar: Literature about the Holocaust. The novel is howlingly funny, and just when you want it to gain in seriousness and gravity, it does...more
Lorenzo Berardi
I read this book while I was living in Oslo on 2005.
Then, for some reason I forgot to add it to my booklist.

It might have been amnesia.
After all in those five months I spent in old Christiania my attention was diverted by many things. I recall the London bombings, hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the Norwegian parliamentary elections, the Indonesian national day, my struggle with bokmaal pronounciation and two or three juvenile infatuations with unaware girls.

Well, no surprises those ladies...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 30, 2014 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Dale
"An old lady descends from the black branches of the fire escape every morning and wearily gathers it all up and clambers home with it in paper bags: the food left for her by the birds."

Before I say what I think about this novel, I should acknowledge that this idea of traveling backwards in time is not one that comes from Amis. Several people have accused him of stealing it from Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five, in fact Amis himself acknowledges that inspiration in his afterward. A few years befo...more
Cheryl
Does a life have a different meaning when told from death to birth rather than from beginning to end? In the former, effects are known before causes, results before hypotheses, reality before idealism. Does this perspective alter accountability or add understanding?

Dr. Tod T. Friendly dies at the beginning of Martin Amis' novel, and then feels remarkably better, experiences climax and then seduces female partners, and maims or kills innocents and then selects them for medical experiments in Aus...more
Stela

A Future to Remember

“We should be born old/ Come to life wise/ Able to decide our place in the world/ Know from the first crossroad which way to go…” says Ana Blandiana in a beautiful poem that seems to anticipate the extraordinary novel of Martin Amis, Time’s Arrow.

Indeed, the inverted time seems to be the main theme, developed with a narrative technique that uses the back to back story to answer an intertextual question through a narrator whose role gets new valences..

It is true that Martin A...more
Sentimental Surrealist
A frustrating experience. See, I'd had Martin Amis hyped to me as one of the funniest writers of the whole goddamn 20th century; a classmate of mine referred to The Rachel Papers as the funniest book he'd read besides Infinite Jest, and anyone who knows me knows an Infinite Jest comparison is going to pique my interest. Well, Amis' style of humor may have worked for him, and maybe it's different in the Rachel Papers (being Amis' first novel, it's entirely possible), but it didn't really work her...more
Genia Lukin
This is an interesting conceit.

I needed a short book to read as I was trying to pace myself between two sequential novels, and as Holocaust Remembrance Day was right there, this one seemed apt.

This is the story of a Nazi doctor who was stationed in Auschwitz, escaped, fled to America and is haunted till the day of his death by the people he killed. It's all in a day's work for a Holocaust book, really... except this one is told in reverse.

We meet the persona living in the man's head at the momen...more
George
The premise of this book is well-recorded in earlier reviews: We start with the death of a doctor named Tod Friendly, and then move backwards through his life (much life hitting the Rewind button on a VCR while the tape was still playing). In reverse, the doctors take healthy patients and leave them sick and injured, while love affairs begin with arguments and end with shy flirtation. The key here is the defining period of Tod's life, towards which we are carried, our suspicions growing along th...more
Jafar
Not much of a plot, but a really great idea for a novel combined with some great writing. The consciousness of a dying doctor, Tom Friendly, starts living his life backward as soon as he dies. This is not just telling the story of his life backward. Tom’s consciousness experiences his life with time literally reversed. Eating means throwing up food and putting it back on the plate. Constipation is quite a bizarre situation. Tom breaks up with his lovers, then is with them, then seduces them, the...more
Emir Never
You die today and the first thing that happens is your life – playing out in reverse. You cannot do anything as you tumble back from death to life, to your mortal beginning.

This has the makings of a personal hell, your life reduced to a 'record' and you have forfeited your say on the matter in the original forward edition. So if you lived a terrible life, good luck.

Martin Amis's novel Times Arrow tackles precisely this reversal of a life, and he chose that of a Nazi war criminal. Only here, the...more
Jonfaith
I had to drop a star. Bruised sleep revealed that I should not uphold my immediate image and adjust downwards. This situation was vivid in that I couldn't stop imaganing Amis in a smoking jacket writing about the Final Solution.

- Anyway -

A novel, a theme, that requires one to pass over it in silence. Marty refers to the Shoah as an autobahn to the reptilian mind. I tend to agree. Reading the dialogue in reverse was afeat. Language, sentences rather, are often so pailindromic.

Mark
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Meigh
A great idea in theory but failed on every conceivable level.
Times Arrow tells the story of Tod Friendly (previously numerous other names) who is an elderly man in America. The story is told backwards and we follow his journey from America, to Europe to Auschwitz in which he is a doctor assisting in the torture of Jews. The story is told backwards so his actions actually bring people to life rather than destroy them.

The idea of this book was incredibly interesting but it failed to get any reacti...more
Ruzz
Jun 25, 2008 Ruzz rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who enjoy having their minds split open.
Recommended to Ruzz by: Brad
Shelves: 2008
When i grabbed this book--more of a novella than a novel, really--on the word of my highly regarded and well read friend brad I was unsure of it. It seemed to me, having glanced at it to be overly gimmicky and it was unlikely the story would mature in less than 200 pages to be about anything more than the cleverness of the author.

Because of this it sat on my shelf for several months after I picked it up and I passed over it numerous times when fetching my next book. Which, as it turns out is a...more
Ben Babcock
The character of time is an open question in physics and philosophy. Entropy and the laws of thermodynamics seem to indicate that there is an "arrow of time," that time goes only in one "direction." Despite our best efforts, however, we still just don't know. It is, however, a well-known fact that humans, or at least most of us, experience time in an aggressively linear fashion. Whatever the objective nature of time, for humanity time moves in one direction common to everyone. There's no going b...more
Katherine Furman
What a truly unique story. It starts at death and runs backwards through birth, but even that has a twist. The narrator of the story is a separate voice inside the main character, who is unaware of this omnipresent observer. The voice is impotent and incapable of controlling the body or thoughts of the main character in anyway, it can't even alert the main character to its presence, but yet it persists as an watcher who does not realize the world is running backwards. It just thinks that life ma...more
Carlos
Un libro magnífico, un experimento con pleno control del lenguaje que lleva hasta el límite la lógica de la narración y de la voz. Este límite es el del lenguaje, el punto en el que el castillo se viene abajo. Sin embargo Amis es listo y juega otra de las bazas que le definen: la de moralista.

Mezclando ambas, Amis tiene éxito y no lo tiene porque el experimento es necesariamente fallido. Sin embargo un fracaso de esta magnitud está al alcance de muy pocos y demuestra que en su derrota, Amis es...more
Kanita
This is an excellent book that details the horrific events of the Holocaust as recounted by a German Nazi physician. Because the novel is told in reverse chronology, the story opens with Tod dying and ends with Odilo being born (the protagonist has three identities that parallel his transition in life: Tod, John, and Odilo). The novel has a slow start because the reader has to become familiar with reading dialogue from bottom to top. Tod Friendly is John's identity when he is old and near death....more
Richard
A truly harrowing story – told in reverse. Love affairs start with a slap in the face; yellow cabs pay their passengers up front; and terrified women are abandoned in parks to be cured by rape. The impact of atrocities is intensified by forcing the reader to digest every event twice. (Ranks in all-time Top-5.)
Mike
Time's Arrow is a fascinating fictional biography, of the kind of life that we have all heard about, or imagined, since Holocaust stories have been told, related by a narrator who may be the subject's conscience or superego. The story has a gimmick, which is annoying and ridiculous at first, but becomes a remarkably effective vehicle for creating the nightmarish and grotesque funhouse mirror feeling that these morally broken events deserve. Martin Amis handles his narrator's perceptions so deftl...more
Mark Fabiano
This brilliant novella restored my faith in the art of fiction to experiment and entertain. There is at once a tedious though compelling narrative genius at work as the narrator begins the tale, reporting to us what it is like to back out from death and awaken on the operating table surrounded by "American" doctors. The careful choice of details and descriptors fall upon the reader like poetry, and like code-to unravel the mystery being woven even as it is being rewound.

Well, what I loved about...more
Andrew
I wish you could do half-stars here on Goodreads, because I'd be giving this 3 1/2. Someone recommended this to me almost 20 years ago and I've just got round to picking it up. In some ways, I wish I'd read it back then - the notion of a plot running backwards nowadays isn't so unusual in our Memento-filled world - but here it's the lightness of touch will really makes this work. Our internal narrator, unknowing of the truth of his existence, comments unintentionally comically and tragically as...more
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Martin Amis is an English novelist, essayist and short story writer. His works include the novels Money, London Fields and The Information.

The Guardian writes that "all his critics have noted what Kingsley Amis [his father] complained of as a 'terrible compulsive vividness in his style... that constant demonstrating of his command of English'; and it's true that the Amis-ness of Amis will be recog...more
More about Martin Amis...
Money London Fields The Rachel Papers The Information Dead Babies

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“It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses, in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, as it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay. ” 35 likes
“They're always looking forward to going places they're just coming back from, or regretting doing things they haven't yet done. They say hello when they mean goodbye.” 15 likes
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