Martin Amis, 1949 – 2023

I came to Martin Amis via Christopher Hitchens. There is something poignant about them both dying of the same thing (esophageal cancer). I’m sure they’re chuckling about it in the afterlife that neither of them believed in (although Amis was agnostic – “We’re about eight Einsteins away from getting any kind of handle on the universe … atheism is premature.” while Hitchens was leader supreme in the war against ancient magic beings).

One of the last books I read was Martin Amis’s collection of essays, War Against Cliché. He was a go-to writer for me. It didn’t matter the topic, his words were always a pleasure to read.

In his memory, I would like to share my favourite passage from one of his books; the “burglar” passage from London Fields –

“Little did they know that the place they were about to burgle — the shop, and the flat above it — had already been burgled the week before: yes, and the week before that. And the week before that. It was all burgled out. Indeed, burgling, when viewed in Darwinian terms, was clearly approaching a crisis. Burglars were finding that almost everywhere had been burgled. Burglars were forever bumping into one another, stepping on the toes of other burglars. There were burglar jams on rooftops and stairways, on groaning fire-escapes. Burglars were being burgled by fellow burglars, and were doing the same thing back. Burgled goods jigged from flat to flat. Returning from burgling, burglars would discover that they themselves had just been burgled, sometimes by the very burglar that they themselves had just burgled! How would this crisis in burgling be resolved? It would be resolved when enough burglars found burgling a waste of time, and stopped doing it. Then, for a while, burgling would become worth doing again. But burglars had plenty of time to waste — it was all they had plenty of, and there was nothing else to do with it — so they just went on burgling.”


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