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Martin Amis Passes Away at 73

by | May 22, 2023 | Articles and Reports, News

Martin Amis, the influential author of era-defining novels including Money and London Fields, and the memoir Experience, has died at the age of 73 at his home at Lake Worth in Florida . His wife, Isabel Fonseca, said that the cause was cancer of the oesophagus.

Amis was among the celebrated group of novelists including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes, whose works defined the British literary scene in the 1980s. He authored dozens of novels and non-fiction books and is widely considered one of the most influential writers of his era.

Martin Louis Amis was born on August 25, 1949, in Oxford and had an older brother, Philip, and a younger sister, Sally, who died in 2000, he was the son of the novelist and poet Kingsley Amis. He studied at Exeter College, Oxford, where in 1971 he graduated with honors in English. The younger Amis followed in his father’s footsteps with his first novel, the Rachel Papers.

Published in 1973 while he was working at the Times Literary Supplement, it won the Somerset Maugham award the following year. He credited his stepmother, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, with waking him up to literature when he was a drifting adolescent He read nothing but comic books until his stepmother introduced him to Jane Austen, whom he often names as his earliest influence.

Mr Amis wrote his first novel, ‘The Rachel Papers,’ in 1973, on nights and weekends, noting if it had failed he may have considered academia.Amis was often compared with his father, Kingsley Amis, who won the Booker prize in 1986 for his novel The Old Devils. Though the younger Amis never won the Booker himself, he was shortlisted for his 1991 novel Time’s Arrow, a portrait of a Nazi war criminal told in reverse chronological order, and longlisted in 2003 for his novel Yellow Dog.

Talking to BBC Radio 4, Amis said he wished he had put “greater distance” between himself and his father, with the “Amis franchise” becoming “something of a burden”. Mr Amis said having a famous writer for a father was a blessing and curse but acknowledged he’d have been in a ‘very different position’ if his father had been a schoolteacher.

Amis wrote about his father’s death in his memoir Experience, which was published in 2000. The book touches on Amis’s separation from his first wife and mother of his two sons, the American academic Antonia Phillips. Amis began a relationship with the American-Uruguayan writer Isabel Fonseca, and the pair married in 1996, going on to have two daughters. Fonseca later turned to fiction herself, publishing her debut novel Attachment in 2009.

Experience also describes what happened when the author discovered he was the father of a 17-year-old daughter, Delilah Seale, whom he had never met, and reflects on the life of Amis’s cousin Lucy Partington, who was murdered by Fred and Rosemary West.

He returned to Britain in September 2006 after living in Uruguay for two-and-a half years with his second wife and their two young daughters.

His close relationship with the journalist Christopher Hitchens, who died of oesophageal cancer in 2011, was well-documented.

They belonged to a colourful set which reinvigorated the British literary scene and has been credited with inspiring a generation of younger writers.

His work was often characterised by its darkly comic subject matter and satire. He also frequently returned to the subject of the Holocaust throughout his career.

Amis was also known as a public intellectual and an often controversial commentator on current affairs and politics.

He satirised the excesses of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain in his best-known works, Money — with its debauched anti-hero John Self — and London Fields. He explored the crimes of Lenin and Stalin in Koba The Dread, and addressed the Holocaust in his 1991 novel Time’s Arrow, an account of the life of a German doctor at the Auschwitz death camp. He then returned to the subject in his 2014 novel The Zone Of Interest. He never won the Booker Prize but was shortlisted for the award in 1991 for Time’s Arrow and longlisted in 2003 for Yellow Dog. Amis’s most recent book was 2020’s Inside Story, which was shortlisted for the National Book Critics’ Circle award for fiction. It is a “novelised autobiography” two decades in the writing, which features writing tips alongside memories of Hitchens, Saul Bellow and Philip Larkin.

His publisher Vintage Books said Amis had defined “what it meant to be a literary wunderkind”, influenced “a generation of prose stylists” and was known for “often summing up entire eras with his books”.

In a statement Vintage Books said: “We are devastated at the death of our author and friend.” He had been with the imprint since publishing his debut novel The Rachel Papers in 1973, aged 24.

 

 

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