Saturday, 14 January 2017

TIME'S ARROW // tired of being human

If everything has gone according to plan, I'm currently in Kenya.

reminds me of Skulduggery:
[source] // sorry, that was a bit harsh. Put it down to my current HIGH SKULDUGGERY FEELINGS -- it reminds me of him -- as I reread the books.
Speaking of Skulduggery (as I always am) -- books involving dubious mortality bring us nicely onto Time's Arrow by Martin Amis.


Image result for time's arrow martin amis cover
I moved forward, out of the blackest sleep, to find myself surrounded by doctors. So begins Time's Arrow, as the narrator wakes from death. This novel is his story, backwards. Time winds back: he grows younger, and the reader pieces together the excitements and horrors of his life as we span back through the twentieth century.

Describing this book, I run the risk of making it sound childish. How can a narrative run backwards? In fact, the structure is delicious: an exquisite puzzle as Amis turns ordinary events on their heads, making our world strange by showing it in reverse.
Water moves upwards. It seeks the highest level. What did you expect? Smoke falls. Things are created in the violence of fire. ... Oh, the disgusted look on women's faces as they step backwards through a doorway, out of the rain. Never watching where they are going, the people move through something prearranged, armed with lies. They're always looking foward to going places they've just come back from, or regretting doing things they haven't yet done. They say hello when they mean goodbye. Lords of lies and trash -- all kings of crap and trash. Signs say No Littering -- but who to? We wouldn't dream of it. Government does that, at night, with trucks; or uniformed men come sadly at morning with their trolleys, dispensing our rubbish, and sh*t for the dogs. (p51)
I have never read a book that deals with time in this way, and on every page I marvelled at the dexterity and freshness with which Amis handled his subject.

[source] // it's not the first time I've posted this and it probably won't be the last. You're welcome.
So, why? Why is it told backwards? “Time is heading on now towards something. It pours past unpreventably, like the reflections on a windscreen as the car speeds through city or forest." (p67) Where is time heading? Notice the swastika on the cover. The novel leads us, inexorably, to Auschwitz.

The main character was there. By telling his story backwards, Amis defamiliarises World War Two and shows its horrors in a whole new way. In an effort to disconnect himself from what happened to him -- what he did -- the narrator speaks from outside the MC's body, seeing himself as a separate entity.
He is travelling towards his secret. Parasite or passenger, I am travelling there with him. It will be bad. It will be bad, and not intelligible. (p72)
“Bad, and not intelligible." This is it, this is Auschwitz. Time's Arrow deals with the realities of World War Two and the overwhelming question: after committing atrocities, how can one remain human?
There's probably a straightforward explanation for the impossible weariness I feel. A perfectly straightforward explanation. It is a mortal weariness. Maybe I'm tired of being human, if human is what I am. I'm tired of being human. (p103)
your local human:

Time's Arrow was easily one of my favourite books of 2016: it challenged the way I thought about time, death and reality, and it's in no way your average WW2 novel.

I'm being immature. I've got to get over it. I keep expecting the world to make sense. It doesn't. It won't. Ever. (p91)


  1. Great review, Emily! This sounds absolutely fascinating. Is it odd that it makes me think of the movie Memento with the description of time. :)

    I hope you're enjoying your trip!

    1. Thanks! Hope you get round to it some day :)

  2. Sounds bleak, but fascinating. I may have to check this one out!

  3. DUDE. This sounds fascinating, so clearly I need it immediately.

  4. I just put this on hold at the library. I AM SO INTRIGUED.

  5. Wow, this sounds like such an impacting book!

    I've got to go. My family is going to drag me out soon to play a board game.


Thanks for commenting! :)