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Time's Arrow, or The Nature of the Offence…

Time's Arrow, or The Nature of the Offence (1991)

by Martin Amis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
I disliked this book immensely. But it is worth 4 stars. Written backwards from the narrator's deathbed through to his birth this is the story of Tod Friendly and his soul. The soul is the narrator. But because it has no body or form it can't really make moral choices and sees things from a detached observational point of view, albeit occasionally throwing in how it likes or dislikes something. I found the whole Benjamin Button thing quite hard going at first (throwing up food onto a plate and unchopping it before putting it in the fridge, doctors who have patients who are perfectly OK but they insert glass shards and smear blood on them before releasing them back onto the streets) and was more than halfway through before I actually got to the point where I knew where it was going and could tell what the story was actually going to be about. I had nearly thrown it off but then looked up a few reviews on it and realised that I needed to keep going. I don't know if I'm appreciative that I did or not. It's certainly got a lot of power. And the second half had me absolutely gripped, in horror, in confusion, in questioning, in I'm-not-sure-what. But I couldn't put it down and now that I've finished it I'm sat here in a sort of daze feeling a bit like I've been hit by something. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
Our narration opens with what appear to be the scattered thoughts of a elderly man on his death bed. It soon becomes apparent that time is running backwards as the patient, Tod Friendly, is subjected to various medical treatments before being swiftly deposited in his own back yard by three EMTs who administer electrical shocks before giving him a parting kiss and disappearing from the garden. We also discover that the narrator does not believe himself to be Dr. Friendly, but instead an unrelated doppelganger trapped inside Friendly's life. Friendly is not the harmless civic-minded volunteering retiree he seems to be either. As we work backwards it is revealed that Friendly is merely the last in a series of aliases in a checkered life that leads back through the horrors of the Holocaust. Though strangely moving backwards makes the events of the concentration camps far easier to stomach. Perhaps that was the point of the protagonist's psychic dissociation? Whatever the reason Amis pulls off the backwards narration masterfully and creates a memorable tale. ( )
  KateVz | Jan 13, 2016 |
Tod Friendly dies in his garden in Massachusetts not far from the Alpha and Omega of highways, Route 6. He's not really Tod Friendly though because he is really John Young, but not for long as he changes his name several times before he is born. He dies a doctor and has been for many years, regardless of where or when he lived it all appears that he is a good doctor yet remember we're moving in the reverse so it all looks acceptable. The reader however knows where this is leading and mid century his career has taken him down a different path.
At books conclusion, I'm disheartened. Aka Tod doesn't seem to comprehend what he has done and the punishment involved with it is never realized. If all our good seems bad and all our bad appears good, what does it all mean in the end. This arrow misses the target for me and leaves me befuddled. ( )
  Carmenere | Jun 25, 2015 |
At first I found the time moving backward sort of gimmicky, but then it became more interesting and thought provoking. It also made me slow down and ponder what I was reading. For example, a fat, dumpy druggie goes to the Vietnam war and comes back a clean-cut young man in good shape. Illustrates points that have been done countless times before in a novel way. ( )
  VictoriaNH | Apr 6, 2015 |
Mindbending... ( )
  mapninja | Jul 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Martin Amisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Klabanová, KateřinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Асланян, АннаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Voor Sally
First words
What goes around comes around.
Still, I'm powerless, and can do nothing about anything. I can't make myself an exception.

And how can we two be right? It would make so many others wrong.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
original title: Time's Arrow
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679735720, Paperback)

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, (e.g., 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:23 -0400)

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"A novel that seems to have been written with the term 'tour de force' in mind ... Amis's radical rethinking of time ... brings the abomination of the Holocaust home to the jaded late-20th-century reader in a way that few conventional novels could". Village Voice Literary Supplement. "Splendid ... bold ... gripping from start to finish".--Los Angeles Times Book Review.… (more)

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