Tag: Martin Amis

The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis

Posted May 16, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 2 Comments

The Zone of Interest by Martin AmisTitle: The Zone of Interest (Goodreads)
Author: Martin Amis
Published: Jonathan Cape, 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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Angelus Thomsen is an officer working at Auschwitz; on August 1942 he gains his first sight of Hannah Doll, the wife of the camp’s commandant. After a few encounters, their relationship becomes more intimate. Despite their attempts to be discreet, Hannah’s husband Paul becomes suspicious. He threatens a Jewish Sonderkommando into killing his wife. However things are not that simple and life is far more complex.

The Zone of Interest is Martin Amis’ fourteenth novel and the second to focus on the holocaust (his 1991 novel Time’s Arrow being the other). The novel is told from prospective of three narrators; Angelus Thomsen, Paul Doll and Szmul the Sonderkommando. This allows Amis to explore the three different sides of this budding romance and betrayal, however what it does not talk about is far more interesting. Thomsen and Doll are so focused on Hannah, while Szmul is unwillingly dragged into this complex situation.

I found the plot to be a bit flat and the ending of this novel anti-climactic but it was Martin Amis was not saying that really stuck out to me. The way Amis told the story allowed the reader focus on the melodrama of this love triangle but we have to remember this was set in Auschwitz. We can explore the indifference towards human suffering and the prisoner’s general psychology without the need to talk too much about this situation. Szmul’s narrative does focus more on the life in the concentration camp from a Jewish point-of-view but it is the Germans’ lack of interest that stuck with me. The more I think about this novel, the more I admire the way Amis wrote this book. I cannot think of another novel that explores an issue like this by actively trying to avoid the topic.

At the time of reading this book, I found this novel to be average. However, it was the post-reading experience that really stuck with me, and I really appreciate the satirical approach Martin Amis took. I am determined to try some more of his works; I need to find out if he uses satire consistently in his novels. I would love to know which novel I should check out next from Martin Amis.


The Whispering City by Sara Moliner

Posted May 15, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Thriller / 2 Comments

The Whispering City by Sara MolinerTitle: The Whispering City (Goodreads)
Author: Sara Moliner
Translator: Mara Faye Lethem
Series: Martí #1
Published: Little Brown and Company, 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Crime, Thriller
My Copy: Paperback

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General Franco was at the height of his power in Barcelona, 1952. When a wealthy socialite is found murdered in her mansion, the police scramble to seize control of the investigation. An over eager journalist named Ana Martí Noguer is assigned the task of shadowing the lead investigator, Inspector Isidro Castro. However, Ana discovers a bunch of letters that dramatically contradict the official statement made by the police. Now she is in mortal danger; her information can expose a conspiracy of murder and corruption.

The Whispering City (originally title: Don de lenguas) is a Spanish novel written by Sara Moliner and translated into English by Mara Faye Lethem. Sara Moliner is the pseudonym of the writing duo of Spanish author Rosa Ribas and former German philosophy professor Sabine Hofmann. This is their first book together and, with their backgrounds and the premise, I went into this novel with high expectations. Sadly, this turned into a run-of-the-mill thriller novel which is not a bad thing; I just was hoping for so much more.

The back drop of a fascist government, known for their shadowing tactics, mixed with the philosophical background of Sabine Hofmann meant I was hoping for some interesting insights. I was hoping to learn about the cultural landscape and the political impact of Barcelona in 1952 but the main focus on this book was the murder and the conspiracy. Having recently read Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo (translated by Edith Grossman), which explored the political and cultural issue in Peru at the time, I was expecting something similar with The Whispering City.

The Whispering City is in no way a bad novel, and I found it incredibly entertaining and worked as a palette cleanser for me while I was reading The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis and The Stranger by Albert Camus. One of the main reasons I am drawn to books in translation is the insight into the cultural life and I did not get that with this book. The Whispering City reminds me a bit of The Millennium series by Stieg Larsson, with a journalist as a protagonist investigating murder and corruption. While it was not as dark as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I found it a lot more enjoyable but still the same thriller formula.


Not Drowning, Reading by Andrew Relph

Posted December 7, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 4 Comments

Not Drowning, Reading by Andrew RelphTitle: Not Drowning, Reading (Goodreads)
Author: Andrew Relph
Published: Fremantle Press, 2012
Pages: 184
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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As a child Andrew Relph had a reading disability, but he never let that stop him. He realised the value and importance of reading and writing and worked harder to learn these skills. Now a psychoanalyst and professional conversationalist, Relph’s book Not Drowning, Reading explores his relationship with books and how they fit into his life experiences.

The title Not Drowning, Reading is a fascinating one and also comes with an interesting backstory. It references a time the author almost drowned but also is a perfect metaphor for how Relph felt during his school years struggling with a reading disability. A feeling of struggling to keep his head above water and not get lost in the depths of the educational waters seems to give me an idea of the battle he was having internally. It is interesting to think that he went from an internal battle into a career helping others with psychological struggles.

Divided into essays on his life, Andrew Relph explores the impact literature has had on his life with continual references to his career as a psychoanalyst. Considering I have an interest in psychoanalysing literature, this was a fascinating read for me and gave me plenty to think about. Relph shares his love for authors like Martin Amis, Saul Bellow, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf and to my disappointment D.H. Lawrence. In fact his thesis was centred on Lawrence and the psychoanalysis.

For those people who don’t know, I consider Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence as one of the worst books I have ever read. I will admit that I just didn’t get the appeal and have never returned to Lawrence again. There are plenty of reviewers I respect and trust that love the works of D. H. Lawrence and while I hate to admit this, I feel like I need help in understanding the appeal. Lady Chatterley’s Lover was read when I first started out as a reader and there would be a lot I missed but I also suspect that it wasn’t the best starting point for me as a reader.

Now I have had a rant about D.H. Lawrence, I should return to Not Drowning, Reading by Andrew Relph. This memoir is a very deep look at his life and literature through the lens of psychoanalysis;  this reminds me I need to learn about these literary theories but for others it might come across as a little dense. I was completely immersed and fascinated by what Andrew Relph had to say but I am well aware that compared to other memoirs about literature this might be too heavy on theory for some readers.