Martin Amis: Obituary of a Great Literary Maverick

Martin Amis, born on September 25, 1949 and who died recently on May 20, 2023 was a literary maverick who tackled taboo topics fearlessly, giving us new insights. He will be missed.
Martin Amis

Martin Amis © Penguin Books UK/

May 26, 2023 21:51 EDT

Today, we bid farewell to Martin Amis, a literary maverick who stormed through the world of letters, leaving a trail of raised eyebrows and stirred controversy in his wake. Martin Amis, the enfant terrible of literature, departed on May 20, 2023, leaving behind a body of work that pushed boundaries, ruffled feathers, and gave us plenty to talk about over drinks at the pub.

Born on September 25, 1949, in Swansea, Wales, Martin Amis was the charismatic, often polarizing, son of the esteemed Sir Kingsley Amis. From an early age, it was clear that Martin would not follow the path of conventional storytelling. No, he had a penchant for challenging social norms, literary conventions, and, occasionally, good taste.

Amis burst onto the scene with The Rachel Papers (1973), a coming-of-age tale exploring the awkward and desperate antics of a young man pursuing romance. It was sharp, witty, and unapologetically irreverent, setting the stage for Amis’s unconventional career. But with Dead Babies (1975), he truly announced his arrival, delivering a decadent and darkly humorous story of debauchery that shocked readers and scandalized the literary elite.

Then came the bombshell that was Money: A Suicide Note (1984). Amis tore through the pretensions and excesses of the 1980s, with the unabashed hedonism and greed of his protagonist, John Self. It was a scathing indictment of the materialistic culture, a relentless skewering of yuppie ethos that captivated and infuriated readers. Controversial? Absolutely. But Amis reveled in the uproar, raising his glass to those who couldn’t handle his razor-sharp wit.

Amis continued his audacious literary exploits with London Fields (1989), a sprawling and morally ambiguous masterpiece that brought together a motley crew of characters in a pre-apocalyptic London. It was a deliciously dark exploration of desire, manipulation, and the blurred lines between good and evil.

With Time’s Arrow (1991), Amis defied conventional narrative structures, telling the story of a Nazi doctor in reverse chronological order. It was a daring experiment, blending historical fiction with philosophical musings, leaving readers both intrigued and perplexed. Some lauded his audacity, while others scratched their heads in confusion. But Amis had never been one to cater to the status quo. 

The Information (1995) saw Amis take on the world of literary pretensions with a delicious dose of self-referential satire. It followed the misadventures of an unsuccessful writer, reflecting Amis’s own experiences and leaving no stone unturned in its scathing critique of the literary establishment. Some saw it as a bold statement against the hypocrisy of the literary world, while others saw it as a personal vendetta against his peers.

No Apologies, No Fear

Throughout his career, Amis courted controversy with his unapologetic opinions, taboo subjects, and occasionally shocking language. He fearlessly tackled sensitive issues, provoking heated debates and dividing readers. But love him or hate him, you couldn’t ignore him.

Few topics ignited as much debate as his views on Islamic terrorism. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Amis published an essay collection, The Second Plane: September 11, 2001-2007 (2008). He argued that the rise of radical Islamism posed a profound threat to Western societies and freedoms. Amis did not shy away from addressing the uncomfortable aspects of this issue, including the role of religion, cultural clashes, and the potential dangers of political correctness in tackling the problem.

Amis’s writings on Islamic terrorism were marked by a sense of urgency and a willingness to challenge prevailing narratives. His bold and controversial statements, such as suggesting the possibility of a “war on Islamism,” drew strong reactions from critics who accused him of Islamophobia and fostering a climate of fear. The charged nature of the discussion surrounding his views often overshadowed the nuances of his arguments and the complexities of the topic at hand. 

As we raise our glasses to bid farewell to Martin Amis, let us remember him not only for his unorthodox storytelling and incisive social commentary but also for his irreverent spirit and his willingness to challenge the conventions of his craft. He was a provocateur, a troublemaker, and a literary force to be reckoned with.

Rest in chaos, Martin Amis. May you continue ruffling feathers wherever you are.

[Thomas Isackson edited this article.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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