Martin Amis turns to a tricky literary conceit to tell the story of an ex-Nazi, Dr. Tod T. Friendly. Friendly is possessed of two separate voices, one running backward from his death, the other running forward, fleeing his unsavory past.
©1992 Martin Amis; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"For decades, writers have been striving to comprehend the Holocaust, and while its horror remains indelible, readers may wonder if there is another way of going over this relentlessly examined ground. In this swift, incisive little book, Amis succeeds in rendering the shock of the Holocaust wholly new by traveling backward in time....Amis's device, which at first seems merely a clever conceit, is handled so skillfully that living backwards becomes not only natural but a perfect metaphor for the Nazis' perverted logic. If he can't finally probe to the bottom of a mind that embraces atrocities, Amis has nevertheless written a thought-provoking, compelling book." (Library Journal)
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
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, however, is bending this story without a need for infinite folds in time. There is no gliding back with prose. There are only jumps back with glides forward. Amis is forced to skip back in time, translate, and then relate the narrative forward. Again and again and again. It was a bit like walking the dog with a yoyo. You are unspooling the story one direction, but the narrative SAH|HAS to keep spinning in a reverse direction. The skips are necessary, but still disruptive to the narrative. Anyway, I liked it. It was a good thought exercise, just not great literature. A minor experiment from a very good contemporary writer.
Interesting concept - running time backward. From death to birth. I kept trying to find inconsistencies in the narrative, but could find few. An interesting read that reminds me of the movie, Memento, though the idea is different.
Business Physicist and Astronomer
This is another fantastic and original book from Martin Amis. I loved it!
The concept is very original and the book is often very funny. And it works its way into your gut and gets you. You'll feel shame laughing at gruesome concentration camp scenes. But then, isn't life sickeningly funny run in reverse? Or is it.
And if we run the tape in reverse, do things merely go backwards or is looking back something else?
Pay attention to what is going on and you'll be rewarded on a thousand levels from this very funny and disturbing book.
Can't recommend enough but must plead with the listener to stay with it. This book won't be found in the shallow end of the literary pool.
From the beginning the narrator in this volume experiences time in reverse. Using this approach, Amis seeks to explain the Holocaust. Many have already spoken to the nature of this book. Published in 1992 there is not much I can add to what has already been said. Concerning the Audible edition, I would say that Amis' writing is just wonderful to read and even more exciting to hear. If you love wordcarft, this book is for you. That said, to fully appreciate the work of Amis you need to give Gaeme Malcom's reading full attention. I sat quietly and listened to segments as I had time. Otherwise, much of it will be lost.
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