The final frontier : the concept of time in the writings of Martin Amis
A consistent concern in the fiction of Martin Amis is the idea of time and how our
experience of time defines our sense of possibility and capacity for renewal. Amis
recurrently engages in dynamic play with both his reader and his characters as he
explores this idea of time as the essence of what it is to be human: 'Time passed. Time,
the human dimension, which makes us everything we are' (TA, p. 76).
Through his depiction of the distorted perception, the alienated and fractured
states of psychosis, in the characters of Einstein's Monsters, Amis asks us to consider
what has happened to our sense of time in the twentieth century, and indeed our new
century, with its nuclear, technological and environmental threats. These advances, he
believes, have made our individual and collective relationship with time problematic.
This thesis sets out to pursue the ramifications of Amis's preoccupation with the
problem of time throughout his fiction with the aid of narrative theorists such as Paul
Ricoeur, Gerard Genette, Mikhail Bakhtin and Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth.
In Chapter Two of my thesis I analyse the sense of the past as it reverberates in
the characters of Success and Other People: A Mystery Story. This idea is further
explored. in Chapter Three, with respect to the frantic, suicidal character of John Self in
Money, in order to show how a sense of the extended present saves Self from perverse
self-annihilation. The prospective nightmare ofnucIear holocaust as perceived by
Jonathan Schell, a powerful influence on the writing of Einstein's Monsters, is the
subject of Chapter Four. The structure of regeneration that Amis creates in the reversed
narrative of Time 's Arrow is the subject of Chapter Five, which considers his
acknowledged debt to Robert Jay Lifton's seminal work, The Nazi Doctors. The related
concerns ofthe cosmological perspective on time and the author's preoccupation with
immortality are discussed in Chapter Six. Amis's treatment of suicide, murder, motive
and interrogation is addressed in Chapter Seven with reference to the protagonist and
astrophysicist, Jennifer Rockwell in Night Train. In Chapter Eight I consider the
dialogue Amis conducts with time through the autobiographical material of Experience.
The concluding chapter of my study, 'Towards a Map of Transcendence', examines
Amis's ability to challenge conventional notions of temporality and free us from the
deranging, manipulative effects of entrenched systems of representation. For it is in his
attempt to forge fresh perceptions of time that Amis' s poetic prose approaches
transcendence and, paradoxically, an intimation of timelessness.