Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Time's Arrow by Martin Amis

Short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1991, Time's Arrow is a novel about the life of Nazi doctor. One would think that a novel about a Nazi doctor would be a dark and grim novel, but Time's Arrow is actually quite comic, although at times in a "laugh so you don't cry" kind of way. It is the narrator and the method of narration that make this novel comic. The narrator is a sort of third-person that lives in the Nazi doctor's head, observing the doctor's life. What makes the novel comic and interesting is that the doctor's life, relative to the narrator, progresses backwards. This leads the narrator to suppose that instead of rounding up, torturing, and killing the Jews, the Nazi doctor and his compatriots are actually bringing the Jews back to life, healing them and then repatriating them. The backwards flow of time also leads to other comic interpretations by the narrator, albeit not as darkly comic in the eyes of the reader. Such as the idea that one rounds up one's things and exchanges them for money at stores.

I really enjoyed this book, despite it's grim subject matter. It took a while to get used to the backwards narration, especially when it came to dialogue which also runs backwards. However, after I did, I found it insightful to view the progress of life in reverse.


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