Darts for art’s sake

Julian Symons

  • London Fields by Martin Amis
    Cape, 470 pp, £12.95, September 1989, ISBN 0 224 02609 7

Nuclear weapons, by their very existence, ‘distort all life and subvert all freedoms’, and even thinking or reading about them for too long may induce ‘nausea, clinical nausea’. So Martin Amis in ‘Thinkability’, the introduction to his collection of stories Einstein’s Monsters. The monsters are the weapons – but also ourselves, who are ‘not fully human, not for now’. Given such a premise, the weapons must be written about by a novelist – what other subject is there? But how to do it? Amis says the subject resists frontal assault (rather as the concentration camps resisted frontal assault for an earlier generation of fiction writers), but Money was subtitled ‘A Suicide Note’, and London Fields might be called another. Nuclear weapons and their effects stay in the background, but their existence is to be taken as affecting the lives and characters of everybody in the new novel. One of them, Nicola Six, has a make-believe friend named Enola Gay, and Enola Gay was the name of the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.

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