Tributes pour in as famous British novelist Martin Amis dies at 73
Tributes pour in as famous British novelist Martin Amis dies at 73
Sunday, May 21, 2023 4:27 pm
By Nehru Odeh
Famous British novelist Martin Amis has died at the age of 73. Amis dies of oesophagal cancer at his Florida home, the New York times reported.
One of the most celebrated British novelists, Amis is best known for his 1984 novel Money and the 1989 work London Fields. He is also well known for his memoir Experience.
Amis was one of the celebrated group of novelists including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes, whose works defined the British literary scene in the 1980s.
His novel Money was named by Robert McCrum in the Guardian as among the 100 best novels written in English. Money, wrote McCrum, was a “zeitgeist book that remains one of the dominant novels of the 1980s”.
He added: “The thrill of Money, which is turbo-charged with savage humour from first to last page, is Amis’s prodigal delight in contemporary Anglo-American vernacular.”
The novelist’s use of style and voice was feted by critics, with Veronica Geng writing in her New York Times review that Money was “like a tale taken down in a trance by a medium in the grip of a spirit control, one of those prankish controls waxing autobiographical from a spectral barstool”.
Known as a literary rock star and often described as the Mick Jagger of the literary world, Amis was one of the key names on that era-defining first list of best British novelists under 40, famously chosen by Granta in 1983, and every decade since. And he was by then already established as the enfant terrible of English literature.
Ever since the news of the demise of this great writer broke, the literary world has been paying tributes to him.
Rushdie in a chat with the New Yorker paid tribute to Amis, saying: “He used to say that what he wanted to do was leave behind a shelf of books – to be able to say, ‘from here to here, it’s me’.
“His voice is silent now. His friends will miss him terribly. But we have the shelf.”
Nobel Laureate and contemporary Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, told the BBC: “He was a standard-bearer for my generation of novelists and an inspiration to me personally.
“For all the bite of his satire, the brilliant swagger of his prose, there was always something tender not far from the surface, a yearning for love and connection. His work will last, surviving the various shifts of fashions and mores.”
His friend Zachary Leader, a literary critic, said Amis was “charming and very generous” but “much bothered by his success”.
“His life was a series of invitations, many of which he turned down, and not all of which he turned down with kind of good grace he would show to his friends. He wasn’t curmudgeonly with the people he liked, I think he tried his best,” he told the BBC.
Amis’s UK editor at Vintage Books, Michal Shavit, said: “It’s hard to imagine a world without Martin Amis in it. He was the king – a stylist extraordinaire, super cool, a brilliantly witty, erudite and fearless writer, and a truly wonderful man.
“He has been so important and formative for so many readers and writers over the last half century.”
In a statement, Penguin Books said: “We are devastated at the death of our author and friend, Martin Amis. Our thoughts are with all his family and loved ones, especially his children and wife Isobel.
“He leaves a towering legacy and an indelible mark on the British cultural landscape, and will be missed enormously.”
The Twitter account of the Booker Prize posted: “We are saddened to hear that Martin Amis, one of the most acclaimed and discussed novelists of the past 50 years, has died. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
His publisher, Vintage Books, issued a statement on Saturday evening.
“We are devastated at the death of our author and friend, Martin Amis: novelist, essayist, memoirist, critic, stylist supreme,” it said.
“It has been a profound privilege and pleasure to be his publisher; first as Jonathan Cape in 1973, with his explosive debut, The Rachel Papers; then as part of Penguin Random House and Vintage, up to and including his most recent book, 2020’s Inside Story.
“For 40 years Martin Amis bestrode the world of UK publishing: first by defining what it meant to be a literary wunderkind by releasing his first novel at just 24; influencing a generation of prose stylists; and often summing up entire eras with his books, perhaps most notably with his classic novel, Money.
“He continually engaged with current events and the contemporary world, never afraid to tackle the biggest issues and questions of the day, in books including The Second Plane and his essay collection, The Rub of Time.
“At the same time his work often explored key periods in history, notably the Holocaust, which he wrote about uniquely and powerfully in novels such as Time’s Arrow and The Zone of Interest. Throughout it all, his love of literature shone fiercely: Experience, The War Against Cliché and others all brought a light up to the world he’d inhabited his entire life.
“He was always unfailingly warm, kind and generous to those fortunate enough to work closely with him. His death is an enormous loss to all of us at Penguin Random House and to the UK’s cultural landscape.”
His UK editor, Michal Shavit, said: “It’s hard to imagine a world without Martin Amis in it. He was the king – a stylist extraordinaire, super cool, a brilliantly witty, erudite and fearless writer, and a truly wonderful man.
“He has been so important and formative for so many readers and writers over the last half-century. Every time he published a new book it was an event. He will be remembered as one of the greatest writers of his time and his books will stand the test of time alongside some of his favourite writers: Saul Bellow, John Updike, and Vladimir Nabokov.”
His former UK editor, Dan Franklin, said: “For so many people of my generation, Martin Amis was the one: the coolest, funniest, most quotable, most beautiful writer in the British literary firmament.
“When I first moved to Cape in 1993 it still seemed, 20 years on from The Rachel Papers, that every young writer wanted to be on the list because Martin was on it. The fact that he was so overlooked for literary prizes only added to his allure.
“He was fearless in his opinions (although curiously naive about the furore those opinions would provoke in the British press), he wrote inimitable prose and some of the funniest novels you will ever read. The news that he has died is unbearably sad.”
Born in 1949 in Oxford, he was the son of the novelist and poet Sir Kingsley Amis.
Amis followed in his father’s footsteps after graduating with a first class honours in English from Oxford University with his first novel The Rachel Papers.
Published in 1973 while he was working at the Times Literary Supplement, the semi-autobiographical novel follows the romantic exploits of a teenage boy in London before university and – like his father’s debut novel – won the Somerset Maugham Award for fiction.
That novel, which propelled him onto the literary scene in 1973, was verbally inventive, with an understanding of the frustrations of a certain type of clever (horny) young man.
Still, Amis credited his stepmother, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, with waking him up to literature when he was a drifting adolescent “averaging an O-level a year”: “She gave me a reading list and after an hour, I went and knocked on her study door and said: ‘I’ve got to know: does Elizabeth marry Darcy?’”
He was a contemporary of other celebrated writers like James Fenton, Salman Rushdie, and Ian McEwan.
According to the BBC, 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,” it said.
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