This story can be found in the December 7, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.
This review can also be read at The Mookse and the Gripes.
First Line: "I sat drinking black tea in the foyer of the hotel."
Last Line: "'Dark Continent' is not a book about Africa; the rest of Mazower's title is 'Europe's Twentieth Century.'"
"Novelists should never deal in duties or obligations. But if they feel a literary impulse to take on political realities—then by all means."
This doesn't feel like fiction at all to me. In fact, it reminds me of a creative writing assignment from college - write something true that happened to you and write something made-up. The class then votes which is the fiction. I vote that this is not very "fictional", based on the voice, the pacing of the story and the seemingly didactic purpose.
What ideas and thoughts readers will find addressed in this story:
a literary narrator
vignettes of Thomas Wolfe and Nabokov
repetition of history
"The repetitions. You go through the same things again and again. And it just doesn't sink in."
Readers are intelligent. And here they find an event in an author's life melded together with his way of approaching (forcing connections between) ideologies rather than a tale exploring universal truths from a side angle. Readers are not encouraged to form their own opinions by watching a story in action. Here, instead, they are overtly lead to situations and instructed what to make of them... like fifth graders. Almost like an "obligation"...
The tone of the writing was easy and flowing - conversational and intimate. I am sure Martin Amis is a wonderful writer, for he executed great skill in the act of writing. The content, however, left me frustrated and unimpressed.
Photo credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1f/Martin_amis_2014.jpg/220px-Martin_amis_2014.jpg