Fact and Fable: Ethics and the Defamiliarisation of theFamiliar in Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow
Abstract[Abstract] In the face of a thought-defying catastrophe, nothing is more cathartic than the transformation of fact into fable. In the case of the Holocaust, this would amount to the fable of seeing the Nazis as devilish arch-villains or of reducing the Nazi genocide to a series of commonplaces. The aim of this paper is to show how Martin Amis plays with this impulse to reduce fact to fable precisely by having the narrator tell a fable that has to be decoded into fact by the reader. The focus on a perpetrator rather than a victim is dealt with as confronting the reader with the “banality of evil”, while the relationship between narrator and main character is approached in the view of Lifton’s concept of “psychological doubling”, and also in the light of Levinas’ notion of excendance. I argue here that Time’s Arrow should be regarded as the result of a conscious attempt to defamiliarise the familiar on the part of the author, giving voice to and requiring of the reader an ethical positioning that, far from being divorced from formal experimentation, turns it into an effective vehicle for revision, reflection and commitment.
AEDEAN 2008, 31: 497-507 ISBN-978-84-9749-278-2