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Time's Arrow

Time's Arrow - Martin Amis True irony is so difficult to achieve, but it's developed to beautiful effect here by Martin Amis. With the reversal of time, every act of destruction becomes an act of creation. Every wound becomes a healing. And the opposite is also true, of course. He spends time walking backwards through the protagonist's life (whose name keeps changing), starting in the Reagan administration. He examines the peculiar truths of the backward world, where women are beaten and raped to heal their bruises and trauma, where prostitutes pay men for services rendered, where firefighters light fires and police cause trouble, and where doctors are some of the worst offenders, ripping off bandages to make wounds bleed and causing all kinds of damage. An examination of this world, and what makes sense in it (and therefore makes no sense in our forwards world) is food enough for thought. But Amis has one grand goal.

He walks all the way backward until our protagonist is a doctor working for the Nazis in experiments on Jews (and others who were killed in such experiments). He gathers ashes from the sky, assembles corpses and pulls them from mass graves, and brings them to life, creating an entire population. Then they are clothed and sent away from the camps in crowded train cars. This population is gradually then assimilated into normal life during the 1930s, and he celebrates himself as the father of a successful people.

This only works because the narrator of our story is tied to the protagonist, but separate from him, examining his actions and motivations from the outside, trying to decide whether he's a decent person. The conclusions he comes to, of course, are all backward.

Truly a masterpiece of writing and historial/social commentary. Amazing.