13 October 2006

Martin Amis, observer and thinker

"It has been Martin Amis month in Britain," writes James Button, who then proceeds to spread the pleasure to Australians with a half-page spread in the Sydney Morning Herald, for "The British author Martin Amis has a particular slant on the motives behind the September 11 hijackings."

Into the head of a terrorist reads the headline, and the caption to the photo leads with Searching for insight.

Button writes:

His Atta, while flying on a Spanish airline in 1999, saw 15 or 16 white-robed, turbaned men suddenly crowd into the aisle and get to the floor, "humped in prayer". Over the intercom the captain ordered them to return to their seats or he would return to Dubai.

A stewardess appeared - tall, long-necked, beautiful: "swinishly luxurious". The effect on Atta is electric. He watches her bellow at the prostrate men: "Vamos, arriba, c----!" Let's go, get up, she orders, cursing them with a word for female genitals. Atta "would never forget the face of the stewardess . . . and how much he wanted to hurt it."

"It is an improbable scene," writes Button, who then goes on to try to analyse the reason for Amis putting it in, coming up with Atta's hate for women as described by Amis. Of course!

So why did Button say the scene is improbable? Sure it was over the top for her to say "Vamos, arriba!" But the scene was redeemed with "c---!"

Actually, this use of c--- is an issue that should be addressed, so I'm pleased that Amis brought it up. Just say "Mucho gracias" to a Spanish stewardess when she hands you your nuts, and she'll spit out "Cunt!" (woops. I forgot the dashes, but at least I haven't printed what Swedish stewardesses say).

All the women I know say cunt! to insult a man. We use it as this stewardess did, because you see, we hate women, or do we hate men? I forget, but I'm sure Amis (who's thinking a lot about women these days) would know. He's probably in our heads already, searching.

But back to the point of his searching, this "ambition" to get into the head of a terrorist, not just the words of an everyday person, as I think the stewardess would be classified.

All that observation, that depth of understanding necessary. All that leaping out of one's own ruts to insight away. It could be considered a conceit if he weren't "one of the world's finest living writers".


Anonymous said...

Well, Anna, I think one of the difficulties here is that the word attributed to the stewardess (perhaps "conos" with a lovely sinuous squiggle above the "n"?) while it is literally c---, is widely used in Spain, without the special taboo it holds in UK, USA, Australia, NZ, etc.

I was amazed to hear it so widely used in Spanish films of the 1980's, 1990's. And the subtitle writers would translate it as "idiot"or "fool" - a less charged insult.

But I agree about authors' presumptions... how can they know? why do they pretend to know?

Bad enough to have Sigmund Freud speculating about the unconscious urges of one of his living patients; why in Heaven's name did he think he had the right to "analyse" Leonardo da Vinci, already dead for hundreds of years??? And why did someone publish that drivel?

Another example closer to home: Germaine Greer, pronouncing on Australian society and its relationships with its indigenous people in "Whitefella Jump Up" - full of speculations, guesswork, invention, personal attacks, ..... but treated with reverence by some readers and critics.

I worry about the high incidence of credulity, and its consequences.


anna tambour said...

Your missives are wonderful, CA,
On this one:
Does this mean that those who serve customers face to face in Spain just say what they think of them? A fantasy come true?

As for Siggy, he was very wise: A man who carries a sculpting mallet is best analysed dead.

And ah, credulity. We live in credulous times. How else could one explain wars about an invisible who changes the world for good less than a pebble on the beach, but in whose name more bad is done than any faithful can explain?