Martin Amis: A Literary Prodigy Who Never Won the Booker Prize

  For a long time, Martin Amis, together with his peers Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes, has been regarded as the backbone of the British literary world and is listed in the “Thames “The 50 greatest writers in Britain since 1945” in 2008. They inherited the transition from realism to modernism and the origin of postmodernism, and influenced generations of younger generations in the literary world. However, compared with his peers who have successively won laurels, Martin Amis has been nominated many times throughout his life, but due to various reasons, he failed to win the Booker Prize, the highest honor in English literature. This is the regret of Amis, but also the regret of the Booker Prize.
  Martin Amis was born in Swansea, Wales in 1949. His father was Sir Kingsley Amis, a well-known novelist and English lecturer at Swansea University at the time. Therefore, when Martin was a student, he moved to many schools with his father’s teaching position, from Swansea to Cambridge, and even went to Princeton in the United States.
  However, his father Kingsley is not Martin’s “father of literature”, let alone his teacher of novel enlightenment. In other words, throughout Martin’s teenage years, he had little exposure to any literature other than comics, until at the age of 16 his newly arrived stepmother (and novelist) Elizabeth Jane Howard gifted Jane Austen novels to He, which is why Martin later regarded Austin as his guide.
  Martin’s literary journey began at the Times Literary Supplement, and a few years later became the literary editor of the New Statesman. During this period, he got acquainted with Christopher Hitchens, a feature writer of the “Observer” at the time, and the two became lifelong close friends; he also published his debut novel “The Rachel Files” and won the Maugham Prize for Literature that year, because It is the first pair of father and son writers who won the award at the same time, and it has become a good story in the literary world.
  Even so, Martin did not win his father’s appreciation. On the contrary, Kingsley was a bit dismissive of his creation: unorthodox, pandering to readers, attracting attention, throwing a few banknotes in the air and watching them swirl in the wind is a son’s work where it should stay. Of course, this kind of prejudice is not simply the scorn of literati or the enmity between father and son. The root lies in literature itself. After all, from a literary point of view, Kingsley, who once portrayed the classic “angry youth” and anti-hero image of “Lucky Jim”, and satirized British society, still has traditional realism in his bones. And by the 1970s, he had already bid farewell to his anger, and his creations were only kept at the level of realism and criticism, which was obviously incompatible with Martin, who was determined to embrace postmodernism.
  Speaking of it, “The Rachel Files” is still Martin’s most traditional novel, even though he is only 24 years old, he indulges in showing off his skills in it, using memory flashbacks and collage stream-of-consciousness techniques to extend the one-night carnival infinitely , nor can it change the sex, lies and videotapes that are full of it, and the youth hormones that are overflowing everywhere. Charles Highway in the novel is Martin’s self-substitution.
  Judging from Martin’s entire creative career, almost all of his masterpieces were completed in the 1980s and 1990s. For example, “Money”, “London Venue” and “Information”, known as the “London Trilogy”, and “The Arrow of Time”, which is only one step away from the Booker Prize. Although these books have different narrative styles and themes, most of them focus on the undercurrent of middle-aged men’s life, and uncover the dirty, debauched and doomsday magic box of British society bit by bit. In Martin’s writings, the world is like a person, and its name is entropy; life is a state from order to disorder. Among them, the “London Trilogy” focuses on anti-heroes who behave perversely, subvert idols, and strive to get rid of the superficial mediocrity and futility of life; Retracing the criminal life of a Nazi medic, it remains my favorite Martin novel to this day.
  The subtitle of “Money” in 1984 was “Death Letter”, which was a satire on Thatcherism and money worship at that time. “The dead book is like poetry, no matter whether you are talented or not, everyone wants to try their skills”, but finishing it does not mean saying goodbye. Only when you really say goodbye to life can you completely get rid of the control of the money society. The protagonist of the narrative, John Self, takes the name of Self (Self), which is meaningful. Under the mask of self-awareness centered on desire, it is actually a farewell book written to the outsiders.
  ”London Field” in 1989 is Martin’s longest novel. By describing various surrealist fables that happened in downtown London on the eve of the millennium, it conveys the anxiety of death and the absurd and desolate complex of the end of the world. After the novel was nominated for the Booker Prize, it aroused strong dissatisfaction from two female judges due to the large number of scenes of women being tortured and killed in the book, and was therefore removed from the list. Afterwards, the novelist David Lodge, who was a judge of the Booker Prize at the time, recalled that if it hadn’t been for this turmoil, the original judges’ vote was 3 to 2, and Martin would win the award.
  Two years later, Martin was once again shortlisted for the Booker Prize with the reverse narrative of “The Arrow of Time”, and he also reached the peak of his creation in terms of narrative skills and avant-garde. It stands to reason that this novel has many references to the predecessors Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Philip K. Dick’s “A World Reversed in Time”, and the setting of going back in time cannot guarantee that Fitz Gerald’s “Rejuvenation” steals from the teacher, but the reverse and reverse are so decisive and so thorough – from narrative to dialogue, from eating and drinking to life, old age, sickness and death – so decisive that you can’t understand many details without reading backwards It is so thorough that it is not like Benjamin Button who rejuvenates himself, but all the characters and all historical events in the book are all inverted. This kind of narrative has no ancients before Martin, and it is rarely imitated afterward. So you will follow the figure of the Nazi military doctor in the book, re-walking the time path from death to life: from the dying bed to the journey abroad, from the resurrection of Auschwitz to the family that gave birth to childhood. When the Auschwitz concentration camp, which originally existed as a Jewish nightmare, turned into a scientific base for them to recreate the Jewish race, the gist of the novel is clearly revealed. But even if it is politically correct, “The Arrow of Time” was accused of “anti-Semitism” by some critics after its publication due to its sensitive subject matter. To a certain extent, this also made Martin pass the Booker Prize again.

British novelist Kingsley Amis (right) played chess with his two sons Martin (middle) and Philip (left) at home in 1961.

Christopher Hitchens (left) and Martin Amis (right) in London.

  In addition, the subtitle “The Essence of Crime” chosen by Martin for “The Arrow of Time” comes from the Italian writer Primo Levi. Perhaps it is a tribute to the writer who survived the concentration camp, but it also coincides with Martin’s inverted Narrative technique: Which “essence of crime” in the 20th century was not perverted? This is probably the emotional reason why I always regard “The Arrow of Time” as the pinnacle of Martin’s creation.
  After that, Martin caused a publishing storm with the book “The Message” and broke up with Julian Barnes. He tried to deconstruct mystery novels in “Night Train”, but received mixed reviews, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize again with “Yellow Dog”, but it attracted harsh criticism. After that, he moved to Uruguay with his family from London, where he wrote the most representative novel “The Pregnant Widow”. In the memoir “Experience”, he tells the secret history of the family in the style of novels, restores the relationship between father and son, and gradually makes the real “father of literature” Saul Bellow and others gradually surface. Peeling onions generally shows readers a more real story. Martin and the more secretive Amis family.
  In the past two years, I also watched Martin talk about the autobiographical novel he is currently writing and has been writing for 15 years in an interview. At the same time, he also paid tribute to the three writers who had the greatest influence on him-poet Philip Larkin, Novelist Saul Bellow and essayist Christopher Hitchens: “Since I started trying to write this novel, Larkin died in 1985, Bellow died in 2005, Hitchens died in 2011, it’s Gave me a new theme called death, and gave me a little more freedom, and fiction is freedom. It’s hard, but the upside is that I can freely fiction because they never look back at me.
  ” , They will not look back at him again, but he keeps letting the arrow of time shoot at them, backtracking and pursuing again and again. Now Martin’s arrow of time has finally shot to the end, but ordinary readers like us will still follow the traces of the predecessors’ writers and their own arrow of time just like Martin did back then.

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