Author(s): Martin Amis
Time's Arrow tells the story, backwards, of the life of Nazi war criminal, Doctor Tod T. Friendly. He 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...Escaping from the body of the dying doctor who had worked in Nazi concentration camps, the doctor's consciousness begins living the doctor's life backwards.
I am half way through this very interesting and unsettling book, which is told in rigorous reverse chronology. For the narrator, who seems to be a secondary consciousness, not quite a conscience, for the main character, and who is aware of the feelings of that character but is not privy to his thoughts, the characters grow younger, move from retirement into work or from childhood to babyhood (and thence to a hospital room where “two people enter but only one comes out”), letters are drawn out of the fire and read, food is taken from the mouth, put onto a plate and sold at a café, and doctors unstitch and cause wounds that are healed by the knives of assailants. The narrator is confused and uncomfortable about these patterns of events. The reversal of chronology is not only a reversal of causality but also a reversal of intention and morality, and the device has considerable philosophical and ethical dimensions. There are enough indicators already to suggest that the main character’s unspoken past, toward which he moves for the narrator and for the reader, is as a doctor assisting in medical experiments in a Nazi extermination camp. Here, I suppose, the character’s actions will at last make sense to the narrator: he will heal the sick and create life, playing his part in the creation of a whole race of people. Contributing to the Holocaust is a burden so intolerable that time itself is reversed to reverse its meaning, and the part of the mind capable of empathy is separated forever as a secondary consciousness, an impotent passenger for whom ordinary life can make no sense. - Thomas
'A daring and ambitious novel' (Daily Telegraph) that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
Martin Amis is the author of thirteen novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories and six collections of non-fiction, most recently The Second Plane. He lives in New York.