Martin Amis, writer, 1949-2023 | Financial Times
“If you’ve read my novels, you already know everything about me,” wrote Martin Amis Inside StoryHis 15th and final novel, published in 2020.
But in doing so, the British author, who died of esophageal cancer at his Florida home on Friday at the age of 73, only continued the dance between fiction and reality that is the hallmark of his ancient novels and short stories. Start. In Inside StoryFor example, Amis comes full circle and returns almost 50 years later to the character of a teenage girlfriend, “Rachel”, who debuted in 1973. The Rachel Papers.
This novel, published when its author was 24 years old, won the Somerset Maugham Award. Amis was immediately thrust into the spotlight as the son of Kingsley Amis, then one of Britain’s most famous novelists (Kingsley won the Booker Prize in 1986; Martin never, although his book The arrow of time was included in the short list in 1991).
Despite his illustrious literary father, however, it was actually Amis’s stepmother, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, who encouraged his writing career – Amis often gave her generous credit, saying that until she was introduced to Jane Austen, he read nothing but comics. books. And in fact, Kingsley had little time for the performance of his talented son. In Experience, Amis vividly documented in his memoir, published in 2000, “how he “engages with the reader; to draw attention to himself,” he said among his snoring criticisms of his father’s work.
Amis was born in London in 1949 to Kingsley and his wife Hilary Bardwell; he had an older brother, Philip, and a younger sister, Sally, who died in 2000. His parents divorced in 1963; her father married Howard in 1965.
Once the younger Amis discovered literature, nothing held him back. A “first of all congratulations” at Oxford led to a first job at the Times Literary Supplement, followed by the literary editorship of the New Statesman, then a powerhouse of young talent, whose cramped and dingy offices housed the future novelist Julian Barnes alongside Amis. Poet and critic James Fenton and essayist and polemicist Christopher Hitchens, who became one of Amis’s closest friends.
A small circle of enthusiastic young male writers – all men – became the nucleus of Britain’s new literary golden age. They were outspoken, deliberately outrageous, reveling in the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s, fiercely ambitious and fiercely critical of their elders, especially older women writers. They went about their business. Early fame and the flamboyant element that was new to the British scene quickly made Amis and his circle tabloid fodder.
For Amis, the real literary heroes lay on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean: Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and he was stunned. THE Rachel Papers quickly followed Dead babies (1975): The New York Times called his style “the new unpleasantness”. Literary pyrotechnics were in vogue, and Amis, who wanted to capture the spirit of the times, provided dazzling, witty, sarcastic, multifaceted prose in his best-known works. He was one of them Money (1984), satire on Thatcher’s consumer society, London Fields and The information.
The arrow of time (1991) used reverse chronology to reconstruct the life of a Holocaust doctor, one when Amis dealt with Nazism, genocide and Stalinism. Another one was from 2002 Koba, the terrorand later The field of interest, about a Nazi commander living near Auschwitz: Jonathan Glazer’s film version of the book debuted at the Cannes Film Festival this week. Including other explorations into the dark regions of human nature House of Meetingsagain about Stalin’s rule in Russia.
Amis, for all his cool, bad-boy front, was eminently erudite, mixing his five volumes of collected journalism and criticism with memoir and social commentary, examining everything from his literary idols to film and sports, from John Travolta to Donald Trump. His journalism, in particular, did not always win him friends: an American critic described him as “more or less equal parts remarkable wit, intelligence, and nastiness”—perhaps because he gave the title to Amis’s 1986 volume of essays on America. The Moronic Inferno. However, many other readers enjoyed the first two of these qualities. Another critic wrote that the book “contains some of the best profiles of writers ever written”.
Although there were often years between novels, Amis was rarely out of the limelight, and his views always provoked strong reactions: his response to the 9/11 attacks, for example, was vociferously expressed in the press and follow-up comments that took it as Islamophobia.
In 2003, his novel Yellow dog brought unfavorable reviews, and that year Amis moved to Uruguay with his second wife, Isabel Fonseca (herself a Uruguayan-American), and their two daughters. After they returned to London, and despite his previous views on America, he moved from London to Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, around 2010. Divorced from a Britain he says he didn’t like. Lionel Asbo (2012), a novel about a misfit who wins millions in the lottery and embarks on an even more meaningless, albeit much richer, life. Thereafter, Amis’s preoccupation with the social background of Britain was mostly replaced by reflections on American society and literature, particularly in his non-fiction and essays.
Amis was previously married to Antonia Phillips; they have two sons. He also had a daughter with Lamorna Seale, though she didn’t know about it until she was a teenager. When she presented him with a grandchild, she said—typically insulting the aging process—that “it was like getting a telegram from the mortician,” when in fact he was apparently a diabolical grandfather.
Novelist, essayist, commentator, teacher and influencer; The always surprising and controversial writer who always shares his opinion and stands between critical arguments: it would be difficult to overestimate the importance of Amis in the literary landscape of the English-speaking world in the last 50 years.