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Amis attempts here to write a path into and through the inverted morality of the Nazis: how can a writer tell about something that's fundamentally unspeakable? Amis' solution is a deft literary conceit of narrative inversion. He puts two separate consciousnesses into the person of one man, ex-Nazi doctor Tod T. Friendly. One identity wakes at the moment of Friendly's death and runs backwards in time, like a movie played in reverse, (e.g., factory smokestacks scrub the air clean,) unaware of the terrible past he approaches. The "normal" consciousness runs in time's regular direction, fleeing his ignominious history.
For decades, writers have been striving to comprehend the Holocaust, and while its horror remains indelible, readers may wonder if there is another way of going over this relentlessly examined ground. In this swift, incisive little book, Amis succeeds in rendering the shock of the Holocaust wholly new by traveling backward in time. At the end of his life, the German-born American doctor Tod T. Friendly suffers a paralysis from which emerges "the soul he should have had." This innocent soul follows "time's arrow" back through Tod's stay in America and his flight to Germany, finally arriving at the concentration camp where Friendly, as Odilo Unverdorben, served as a doctor of death. Trying to discover "when the world is going to make sense," the confused if patient soul watches as the doctor injures the healed, revives Jews who have been gassed, and grows closer to his estranged wife. It concludes, "We all know by now that violence creates, here on earth . . . it heals and mends." Amis's device, which at first seems merely a clever conceit, is handled so skillfully that living backwards becomes not only natural but a perfect metaphor for the Nazis' perverted logic. If he can't finally probe to the bottom of a mind that embraces atrocities, Amis has nevertheless written a thought-provoking, compelling book. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/91.
-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
If you can get over the fact that the whole premise is basically a high concept gimmick (Lets tell the story of a Nazi Doctor's life! In reverse! Read morePublished 1 month ago by jafrank
My book club decided to read this, mainly because it’s written backwards. It’s compelling reading…especially since if the reader is to make sense of the dialogue, the reader has to... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Julie Failla Earhart
I found this book hard to get into at first, but liked it more and more as time when on (or back... Heh.).
It's a very odd book, for sure. Read more
Totally incomprehensible. I gave up after about thirty pages.Published 8 months ago by Richard Seid