Monday 20 January 2020

Review: Martin Amis, Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire

Martin Amis
Martin Amis
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

The sixth annual Mountains to the Sea literary festival does not officially kick off until the week after next, but this exclusive trailblazer event with one of the bona fide giants of modern literature serves as a mouthwatering appetiser.

Martin Amis is one of the most famous and infamous living writers on earth. Money (1984) and London Fields (1989) remain two of the most iconic novels of the late 20th century. Inspired by Saul Bellow, Vladmir Nabokov and James Joyce, Amis has reached a level of fame and notoriety in his own lifetime that none of his heroes ever did.

His latest novel The Zone of Interest deals with the Holocaust, which has been something of a Amis motif since Time's Arrow in 1991. This mightn't be most people's idea of a beach novel for a late summer break, but it has earned Amis some of his most favourable reviews in years.

Amis discusses his latest novel with Sean Rocks from RTE Radio One's Arena while taking a wry look back over his life and career and various controversies. Amis still possesses a youthful air for his 65 years and seemingly shows no sign of mellowing too much in the same week he qualifies for a bus pass.

He has been called misogynist, racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic. Even his own father Kingsley Amis once complained that his son was guilty of "breaking the rules, buggering about with the reader, drawing attention to himself."

Amis regards his more virulent critics as clamouring for "any port in a storm," noting that while sons plying their father's trade are quite commonplace in music and film, they are curiously absent in literature.

He reveals that his own offspring are dabbling in publishing essays and reviews, but he is neither actively encouraging or dissuading them, which maintains a stance more or less identical to his father's.

Amis states that he is sympathetic towards Israel. He doesn't see this week's ceasefires enduring until Hamas recognises its legitimacy, otherwise the vicious cycle of rockets and retaliation will continue.

This is not exactly the most inclusive of viewpoints, but whatever you think about his politics, he is a brilliant conversationalist, even though there are some glaring gaps in his world view and he doesn't condemn the ferocity of Operation Protective Edge.

An evening in his controversial company whizzes by in a flash.

Irish Independent

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