Martin Amis, Time’s Arrow
I loved it. Five stars. And, to cram in another cliché, I loved the sheer technical achievement of writing a novel in literal reverse, with all the conceptual and perceptive overtones thereof. It’s a bit like watching a massive mental breakdown in reverse; I could hear the nightmare slurps and swells of backward sounds, as the madness comes to a climax and then (slowly, forwards) recedes to a seeming normality. The genius of the novel is how appropriately the reversed concepts take on Nazi ideology and obsession: shit, the misperception of belief-conviction-denial by herd power, and the resultant dissociation between cruelty and personal morality-integrity. By virtue of reversal, violence, destruction and cruelty become generosity, creation and kindness. Tod, Mr Friendly Death himself, is convinced that all that is good comes from shit and trash, that his acts of surgery initiate and unify life. The most disturbing inversion of perception is the 'creation' of an old jewish man from a shithole. Truly disturbing because the reader understands so clearly the reversal. Tod’s innocence is the absolute crime, like the lesser crime of naïve denial. There’s the relation of power to sex; at one point he exploits the prisoncamp women purely for anal sex (retroactively curing his impotence). And then, at the start (which is later), to see him use women purely for sex, but in a reverse relationship which to him begins with the cruelty of the slap and the pained goodbye. Great continuity, great plotting. Further disturbing because knowledge, though perception-based and experiential, is nonetheless accumulated retroactively, and through memory. Tod doesn't learn or experience correctly even though he remembers; but we, retroactively know and become more aware of the reality of the crime of the Nazis, more bound to the nightmare. There’s a purple patch here and there as is only right. And the normal, almost banal ending (a normal family of sorts, a contented baby, innocence) lays the deep, collective roots for the future, as all fascist crimes begin in the banal.