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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

'A Brave Attempt, But Unconvincing'

The Sydney Morning Herald's Anthony Macris isn't too enthused about Martin Amis' latest, House of Meetings:

"Did Amis really think he could simply dress up one of his middle-class English bad boys in a series of Russian costumes, and pass him off as authentic?

"If you want your wartime atrocities gift-wrapped in poignant (if mannered) ironies, read Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. If you want your atrocity in all its raw, unplugged glory, read Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. And if you need true comic tastelessness, get out a DVD of The Producers.

"But if you want the view of a high-brow wag with a taste for the dark side, read House of Meetings. It's a brave attempt, brimming with dark wit, even if it doesn't quite convince us of the horror that was the Soviet Gulag."

In The Times, Douglas Kennedy is a tad more forgiving:

"As a novelist, Amis has never been emotionally user-friendly, and in House of Meetings there is a chilly distance created between the narrator and the horror show he is describing. As such, it’s a bit like being guided through a series of museum exhibitions depicting a vortex of hell. Though fascinating, they lack visceral punch. This reservation aside, the novel has a cumulative power and resonates with many reflections about the course of individual destiny in a profoundly cruel universe. And it’s a reminder — especially for the Schadenfreude brigade — that Amis is always, at the very least, an interesting writer. "

The digested read is here.


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