Martin Amis remembered: Self-aware, considerably critical, and a man who once ate his cigarettes

Martin Amis was very much a legend in his own lifetime.

Novels like Money and London Fields looked at the seamy side of London in the Cool Britannia era. He was a big fan of snooker. He had an alter ego who ate fast food and misbehaved in various ways.

He summed up that period in which he lived so very well, of getting over the baby boom, of Britain rediscovering itself as perhaps not as important as it had been, but certainly as a country very proud of its literary heritage.

And of course one has to remember that Martin Amis was also a considerable critic in his own right.

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British novelist Martin Amis dies aged 73

Martin Amis at the Booker Prize ceremony in London in 1991
Martin Amis at the Booker Prize ceremony in London in 1991

It has to be said, in the last decade or so, as he got increasingly involved in writing about 20th century history, he hasn’t perhaps had the same acclaim as those of his generation like Salman Rushdie or Ian McEwan.

But they were very much a gang together, and of course with the late Christopher Hitchens as well, Martin Amis’s closest friend.

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And it’s an irony indeed that he has now died of oesophageal cancer like Christopher. They were both extremely heavy smokers.

Indeed, I remember traveling with Martin Amis in the press pack when we were covering the end of Tony Blair’s premiership, on one occasion we had to go into the chancellor’s office in Germany in Berlin, where no smoking was allowed. And Martin Amis got so desperate that he was seen eating his cigarettes.

He was also known as man about town, with his velvet jackets. He was very conscious of being short and had an alter ego Little Keith, which was a parody of himself.

My favourite novel is his first one, The Rachel Papers, which is always said to be very autobiographical, about his early life, getting girlfriends – as many girlfriends as possible.

What I liked about it is while it was brilliantly written and extremely funny, it also had a great deal of compassion.

He was a very self-aware person, always willing to criticise and examine his own motivation, and perhaps his own lesser motives as well as to praise himself.

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