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Time's Arrow or The Nature of the Offence Paperback – 24 Sep 1992


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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (24 Sep 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014016779X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140167795
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 142,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Amis is the author of ten novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories and six collections of non-fiction. He lives in London.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Amis attempts here to write a path into and through the inverted morality of the Nazis: how can a writer tell about something that's fundamentally unspeakable? Amis' solution is a deft literary conceit of narrative inversion. He puts two separate consciousnesses into the person of one man, ex-Nazi doctor Tod T. Friendly. One identity wakes at the moment of Friendly's death and runs backwards in time, like a movie played in reverse, (eg, factory smokestacks scrub the air clean,) unaware of the terrible past he approaches. The "normal" consciousness runs in time's regular direction, fleeing his ignominious history.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Elmore on 30 July 2002
Format: Paperback
A book of stark, gaunt imagery and truly emotive subjects. Time's arrow delivers on many levels, as a warning of mans descent into pure evil it utilises the Nazi's reign to portray how seemingly 'normal' people can be turned to sadistic keepers of hell on Earth. The inverted time scale creates a sense of disarray which adds to the tumultuous approach to the inevitable revelation of Tod Friendly's real history.
Contrary to what some have said, Amis deals with the Holocaust with a subtle approach, mirrored by Tod's reversed morality toward the horrific going-ons in Auschwitz.
A heart wrenchingly powerful read, which evokes a myriad of emotions.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Waterlow on 11 May 2003
Format: Paperback
Amis’s thought-provoking, award-winning, look at the mind of a Nazi involved in the horrors of the holocaust is a very interesting read. The central conceit is that a second voice, the narrator, sits in the mind of the war criminal, watching his life play, backwards. This novel technique means that acts of appalling violence appear to the narrator as acts of great compassion – for example, torture victims are apparently magically healed by the anonymous man we follow through the book.
Amis cleverly juxtaposes this with the man’s life as a doctor, which the narrator perceives as the work of a torturer… this inversion of the truth is a very effective method of showing just how distorted the truth of Nazi Germany (or indeed any country exposed to propaganda) would have been. This is very thought-provoking… and you certainly have to do a lot of thinking when reading this book, what with all conversations taking place in reverse and so forth.
However, interesting and intellectual as this book certainly is, Amis does very little else after establishing the raison d’etre of the story. Once you’ve “discovered” (the jacket gives it away immediately) the author’s conceit, then you could, almost, write the rest of the book yourself and realise the points Amis makes without actually reading them. Interesting and, at times, entertaining though it is, more could have been done to make it a more fulfilling read. Single-concept efforts take a lot of talent to pull off successfully – talent Amis certainly has; he just didn’t use it to its fullest here.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Dec 2000
Format: Paperback
Amis presents an entertaining and enlightening read with Time's Arrow. The story is told by the "soul" of the main character, Dr. Tod Friendly, who narrates Tod's life in reverse. The narrator's innocence makes the read interesting as he describes everyday events taking place backwards as though that was the way the incidents always occur. His naivete also hints at a terrible secret Tod seems to be running from. The reader discovers it during WWII when the main character works at Auschwitz concentration camp. Not only does Amis contrive poignant Holocaust images, but the reversal of time's arrow lets the reader see the event in a different light, one that parallels the Nazi's idea of "creating" a perfect race through genocide. Amis's characteristic mastery of language and satirical wit can be seen throughout the work while his wonderful prose never fails to entertain. Though a little complicated at times, the novel is definately a worthwhile read as it gets the reader's mind working and will not be easily forgotten.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By TomCat on 12 Jun 2011
Format: Paperback
Time's Arrow is a life backwards, but not in the Benjamin Button sense; rather, the book begins with our protagonist's death in the late 20th Century, and tracks backwards through time to end at his birth some 70 years previous. Counterpoint to this is our narrator, a kind of psychological hitch-hiker. Basically, the narrator is a character living inside the protagonist (but can neither exert control or influence) and who's forced to experience events backwards. Thus, to our narrator, the world is a baffling and irrational construct which begins with death ("I moved forward, out of the blackest sleep") and ends with birth - the terrifying entry into the mother's womb.

Got it? I'm finding the premise surprisingly difficult to explain. Imagine watching a film backwards while somebody describes the action as if it were playing forwards and you'll have some idea of this book's narrative throughline. Although the concept is initially baffling, the novel's opening 50 pages (or so) carry with them an persuasive sense of comedy that lightens the tone and makes the longer-than-average time it takes to acclimatise to the novel's style more endurable. For example, moments of otherwise mundane experience are lifted into the sphere of the comedic by our narrator's bizarre inverse chronological perspective: as our narrator sees is, a visit to the doctor consist of an immediate consultation followed by an unexplained hour-long wait in a holding area. Sex is a strange, tufted and clumsy process, the ultimate goal of which is, clearly, to be taken to dinner in a nice restaurant; where food is regurgitated onto cutlery before cooled in ovens and taken to stores where it is exchanged for money etc. etc.
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