Magical Realism and Martin Amis’s “The Immortals”

Introduction

Magical realism combines transcendental feelings, sensations, and thoughts with inherent reality. Using the “irresistible element of magic,” the authors of this literary movement create works that defy the usual logical analysis and criticism (Faris 7). The world is perceived differently by both readers and characters: “The descriptions in magical realism detail a strong presence of the phenomenal world” (Faris 7). Magical realism is notable for how the authors portray reality and everyday life. They collide two worlds: a small world of daily worries, suffering, illnesses, and a massive world of history, events, and global meanings. Faris describes it this way: “The narrative merges different realms” (p. 7). In the world of magical realism, there are doubts and contradictions caused by detailed descriptions and epithets. The actions that take place confuse readers: “The reader may experience some unsettling doubts in the effort to reconcile two contradictory understandings of events” (Faris 7). As a result, reading such literature can undermine a person’s ethical attitudes and cause existential experiences or a crisis.

Martin Amis consistently adheres to magical realism, combining it with a melancholy mood that seems to await death. The hero, in this mood, criticizing modern society, questions technological progress and the power of man as the center of Western culture, a man who subjugated nature. The short story “The Immortals” features a post-apocalyptic world that has survived a nuclear bombing. The agony of the dying planet is transferred to the mood of the nameless character, the main narrator. This character is so strong in the body that he gains immortality, but he is just as weak in spirit. Martin Amis raises the issue of immortality that has troubled people for millennia. Seeing in the text a sullen person who seems to hate everyone, the reader wonders what it is like to experience immortality. Even if this person once loved, he lost loved ones long ago, which caused him trauma. In the short story “The Immortals,” Martin Amis explores the challenging theme of death and immortality, highlighting the meaning and appropriateness of passing away and confronting the world of dirty everyday life with eternal questions.

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The Perception of the Phenomenal World

The world is perceived differently by both readers and characters. Martin Amis draws attention to the phenomenal world and changes the human attitude to life and death (Chanady). Ordinarily, people cannot perceive life in itself or death in itself. The protagonist disavows the taboo on death and its exaltation. Having seen the death of many people, he developed a relatively flexible attitude towards it and got used to grief. Not attached to anyone, he sees pure death, death itself: “It was just death, pure and simple. And in my experiences in the nuclear theater have done nothing to restore the lost romance” (Amis 51). Here readers can see how the hero doubts his views on death. He either waits for her constantly, then he hopes for her, then he hates, as well as, possibly, the people around him. Human immortality, which they dream of, seems ridiculous to him.

Contradictions Between Two Worlds

Magical realism is notable for portraying reality and dusty everyday life. They collide two worlds: a small world of daily worries, suffering, illnesses, and a massive world of history, events, and global meanings. The character emphasizes constant doubts and contradictions and shows how ambivalent human existence is. It is noticeable in the linguistic opposition of the words ‘death/life’ and ‘wrinkle.’ Human life and death, aging, and wrinkles are inevitable; still, life and death are spheres of transcendental experience, and wrinkles are the same everyday life, ridiculous and ugly. The main character sees ambivalence in everything: “Death is my life – but this is the new wrinkle” (Amis 51). Doubts torment him, and now, having lived for many years, he cannot say who he is. We can say that the main character, as it were, is in weightlessness between two realities: the actual human, and the eternal, beyond.

Doubts and Tortures

In the world of magical realism, there are a lot of doubts and contradictions caused by detailed descriptions and epithets. The immortal man, whose experience covers invisible spaces and epochs, can grasp contradictions as he sees the truth, and “Truth is always doubtful” (Akter 31). According to Amis, ordinary people do not meet contradictions and are guided by precise desires. Amis writes, “They are the last, and they are insane. The suffer from mass delusion. Really, it’s the craziest thing. They all believe that they are – that they are eternal, that they are immortal” (p. 53). Only the infinity and transcendence of experience allow the main character to capture contradictions. The subjectivity of an ordinary person is a constraint and does not allow one to look at reality globally. On the other hand, the immortal gloomy man suffered from contradictions and self-torture.

Conclusion

In “The Immortals,” Martin Amis raises the controversial issues of death and immortality in a post-apocalyptic setting. The figure of the main character leads the reader to the idea that this person with suicidal thoughts is either already spiritually dead or very longs for death, although he does not admit it. The reader decides for himself that death is an integral part of life, and dreams of immortality turn into the loss of loved ones and loneliness, melancholy, and longing.

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Works Cited

Akter, Shammee. “Treatment of Time and History in the Narration of Postmodern Literature: Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-five, Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow and Tim O’Brien’s How to Tell a True War Story”. Diss. BARC University, 2017, Web.

Amis, Martin. The Immortals. Serichardson, Web.

Chanady, Amaryll Beatrice. Magical Realism and the Fantastic: Resolved Versus Unresolved Antinomy. Routledge, 2019.

Faris, Wendy. Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Vanderbilt University Press, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central, Web.

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