The Double-Headed Arrow of Trauma: The Morally Traumatised Perpetrator in Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow

  • Laura Roldán-Sevillano Universidad de Zaragoza


Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow (1991) gave rise to much controversy when it came out, for this novella revolves around a traumatised Nazi doctor exiled in the US whose life is narrated in a disorienting reverse chronology by what would seem to be his own dissociated conscience. Despite the abundant academic publications on this experimental narrative, such as those that read it as a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) piece of fiction, the origin of the protagonist’s damaged psyche and the diverse symptoms he suffers from have not yet been explored from the viewpoint of perpetrator trauma, a moral-related syndrome distinct from PTSD that affects victimisers haunted by remorse. Drawing on trauma theory and the recently developed concepts of perpetration-induced traumatic stress (PITS) and moral injury, this article aims to contribute to the scholarly conversation on Amis’s novella by arguing that its narrative voice, backwards temporality, intertextuality and recurrent motifs perform the perpetrator/protagonist’s moral-based trauma provoked by an acute sense of shameful guilt and the fear of being discovered. The article concludes by suggesting that, through this staggering work, Amis gives readers not only an opportunity to actively remember and reflect on the Nazi genocide but also an insight into trauma from an unusual but necessary perspective.

Author Biography

Laura Roldán-Sevillano, Universidad de Zaragoza
Laura Roldán-Sevillano is a PhD Research Fellow in the Department of English and German at the University of Zaragoza and a member of the Instituto Universitario de Investigación en Empleo, Sociedad Digital y Sostenibilidad (IEDIS) at the same university. She is currently writing her PhD thesis on the representation of victims and perpetrators of violence against ethnic women in contemporary US fiction.


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