Mark's Reviews > Time's Arrow: or, The Nature of the Offence

Time's Arrow by Martin Amis
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's review
Dec 20, 2010

really liked it
Read in December, 2010

** spoiler alert ** read this a number of years ago but refound it in a book shop in Novemeber and for some reason decided to read it again. Its extraordinary. Amis tells the story of a nazi war criminal from his death to his birth. Time running backwards with a narrator inside the character's head but detached almost like his conscience but because all is travelling backwards the conscience sees events unfolding from death, horror and tragedy up into peace, calm and safety and reinterprets the brutality and inhumanity as noble and life-giving. Its a brilliant way of showing the horror of the Holocaust and the development of a monster. The casual discovery of a group of jews hiding in a false room, their arrest, their being gassed, their choking panic, their deaths and burials in an huge unmarked grave whilst the soldiers look on and laugh is told backwards. The digging up of the bodies, their reanimation from within the gassing van and their stepping back into the hiding place chills to the core. And the anti -hero's soft ' Guten tag ' as he ' replaces ' the false panel is bone chilling in its horrible normality. There is a real wit about the book too which is what makes the unfolding of the horror so powerful. In the early stages you smile and laugh at the clever viewing of the world backwards; money going the wrong way in exchanges, dinner plates being regurgitatedly filled and we won't even go near activity in the toilet but as the blackness of Nazi Germany looms into view it becomes horrifying. Because its backwards it seems less vile because its so ridiculous and I suppose that is the power of this novel; it brings home how horribly normal those who destroy, hate and rip apart can seem and how normal they can begin to think their behaviour and hatred is.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Cecily (last edited Jun 22, 2012 06:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cecily I couldn't detach myself enough from the annoyance of the gimmick. I wish I had, because then I might have got as much from it as you evidently did.

Great review.

Mark yep i know what you are saying. Other of my Goodreads friends said that they found it too 'knowingly clever' and I can see what you all mean. However my second reading of it really chilled me, I suppose that was Amis' intention.

I found the 'gimmick' was a powerful way of making me look at the Holocaust in a different way. Rather as if i came to a place from an unusual direction, one not normally travelled and thus saw the scene quite differently from my normal view...if that makes sense

Mark thanks for the 'great' too. Appreciated

Cecily Hmm... you've almost persuaded me to reread it (not something I've ever done with something I only rated as 2*).

Mark Praise indeed. Thanks

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