After Words: The Paratexts of Martin Amis's TIME’S ARROW

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Colorado State University]On: 24 August 2014, At: 23:04Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>The ExplicatorPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:</p><p>After Words: The Paratexts of MartinAmis's TIMES ARROWDavid Ben-Merre aa Buffalo State College , State University of New YorkPublished online: 06 Jun 2013.</p><p>To cite this article: David Ben-Merre (2013) After Words: The Paratexts of Martin Amis's TIMESARROW, The Explicator, 71:2, 117-119, DOI: 10.1080/00144940.2013.781004</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>The Explicator, Vol. 71, No. 2, 117119, 2013Copyright C Taylor &amp; Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0014-4940 print / 1939-926X onlineDOI: 10.1080/00144940.2013.781004</p><p>DAVID BEN-MERREBuffalo State College, State University of New York</p><p>After Words: The Paratexts of Martin AmissTIMES ARROW</p><p>Keywords: Martin Amis, Gerard Genette, paratexts, Times Arrow</p><p>Martin Amiss 1991 novel Times Arrow begins at the end of its story andis narrated backward in an absolute reverse chronology or, as Seymour Chat-man calls it, a sustained, antonymized temporal reversal, where cleaningmeans dirtying and eating means regurgitating (33). Dialogue, too, happensin reverse, so that the reader is forced to look to the bottom of the page andread upward to understand simple conversations. At first, the reader mis-takes the novel for lighthearted comedy: one plays tennis by putting the ballsaway, one washes ones hair by putting shampoo back in the bottle. The uttershock of Amiss story (not of its history) comes through this misdirectedreading experience. As the reader not too quickly finds out, the protagonistTod Friendly happened to be a Nazi doctor working for Mengele (UnclePepe) at Auschwitz. The backward narrative results in a backward causal-ity, which in turn, as Mark Currie notes, results in a backward morality(100). The protagonist performs his duties as doctor, according to Amissnarrator, by spooning tumor into the human body (Amis 87). The horrorof Auschwitz is represented as its Frankensteinian reverse; the Nazi purposethere becomes [t]o make a people from the weather (120).</p><p>Amiss novel has been of great interest to both historicist scholars of theHolocaust and formalist scholars of narratology, partly because each havehad similar difficulties reconciling the two very different encounters one haswith the text. This divergence in critical interest disturbingly mirrors the splitnarrative personalities within the novel itselfthat between the protagonistTod Friendly/Odilo Unverdorben and what Chatman and James Phelan have,with an unstated nod to the ultimate biblical tragic hero, called Soul.</p><p>117</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Col</p><p>orad</p><p>o St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>3:04</p><p> 24 </p><p>Aug</p><p>ust 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>118 The Explicator</p><p>According to one of Amiss main sourcesRobert Jay Lifton, mentionedby name in the novels afterwordsuch a split in personality psychologicallyenabled the doctors working in the concentration camps. Hence, we havewhat some critics refer to as the necessary aesthetic failure of Amisstexta form/content compartmentalization that cannot be reconciled.</p><p>There is really only one question that ought to be asked of Amissnovel: Is this the right subject matter with which to play a narrative game?Narratives are always already games, one might reply, and yet, becausemore regularized narrative chronologies have become naturalized, anythingoverly ornamental seems to be an exercise, at least initially, in authorialbraggadocio. But because I can neither answer this question nor ask itagain in a better way, I turn to another seemingly benign question regardingparatextual form, which I hope will shed some lightor darknesson theapparent incommensurability of text and history. I ask how the afterwordand alternative title change our interpretation of Times Arrow and, moregenerally, how paratexts might change when the content they frame seemsto demand something that is outside of structural form.</p><p>Amiss alternative title and afterword are narratological occasions forwhat Gerard Genette calls paratexts or thresholds (2). As the page behindthe cover of Genettes translated critical analysis makes clear, Paratexts arethose luminal devices and conventions, both within and outside the book,that form part of the complex mediation between book, author, publisher,and reader. For the alternative title to his novel, Amis borrows a phrasefrom Primo Levi: The Nature of the Offense. According to Genette, theparatextual, titular or or the ou does more to bind than to sunder(58). While this is usually the case with alternate titles, I would argue thatsomething different happens with Amiss novel. For example, unlike Moby-Dicks alternative title (;or, The Whale), Amiss titular or is to be readliterally. Given the disproportion of the two projects and the failure of theafterword to access history, the titleand hence the novelmust be read asone or the other: either Times Arrow or The Nature of the Offense. This isa choice readers must make before beginning, even though they do not yetknow that they have been asked to make it.</p><p>For Genette, postscriptsalways both too early and too lateare al-ready types of failure (239). While the preface can proleptically serve amonitory and preventive means, the postscript can hope to fulfill onlya curative, or corrective, function (239), or what might be called a fixingof history. The most striking feature of Amiss afterword is the account ofdebtpresent imbalances owed to past authorities. The failed afterword of</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Col</p><p>orad</p><p>o St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>3:04</p><p> 24 </p><p>Aug</p><p>ust 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>The Paratexts of Martin Amiss TIMES ARROW 119</p><p>Times Arrow gestures toward the real, appearing as a sort of corrective orapologia, aimed at justifying the attempt at commingling narrative games-manship and the Holocaust by invoking not only Liftons social scientificbasis for Nazi doctor schizophrenia but also the protective instincts ofM. A. and his gratefulness to, among others, his in-laws, Chaim andSusan Tannenbaum (no doubt serving, among other things, a metonymicfunction). It is not unusual for Amis to append a postscript to his novels, andit is not unusual for him not to: Yellow Dog has one, Success does not; Houseof Meetings and Einsteins Monsters, alternatively, have prefaces. Given thatthe practice is unremarkable for Amis, it is a bit of a stretch to assert thatsomething remarkable happens with the postscript to Times Arrow, but thisis my claim. Because Amiss novel is about origins (or about a narrativeend that seeks a chronological beginning), we need to understand the after-word not as a supplement, reflexively explaining the narrative story, butrather as an actual part of the novel. The words after words cannot reachoutside textuality. The framed story of Times Arrow ends where it oughtto beginthe womb. Yet that is not quite the very beginning. The germ ofOdilo Unverdorben, the figure dangerously rewritten back into an alreadyestablished history, happened only some time before London / May 1991,by some hitherto unmentioned character M. A., able to give the illusion ofbreaching the threshold between textuality and history, something the novelstrives to do but ultimately cannot. I join here Richard Menkes conclusionthat this extraordinary act of narrative can itself only reimagine history byconceding its powerlessness before it (960). What can one now utter afterwords?</p><p>Works Cited</p><p>Amis, Martin. Times Arrow. New York: Vintage, 1991. Print.Chatman, Seymour. Backwards. Narrative 17.1 (2009): 3155. Print.Currie, Mark. About Time: Narrative Fiction and the Philosophy of Time. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP,</p><p>2007. Print.Genette, Gerard. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. 1987. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Foreword</p><p>Richard Macksey. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print.Menke, Richard. Narrative Reversals and the Thermodynamics of History in Martin Amiss Times</p><p>Arrow. Modern Fiction Studies 44.4 (1998): 95980. Print.Phelan, James. Teaching Narrative as Rhetoric: The Example of Times Arrow. Pedagogy 10.1</p><p>(2010): 21728. Print.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Col</p><p>orad</p><p>o St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>3:04</p><p> 24 </p><p>Aug</p><p>ust 2</p><p>014 </p></li></ul>