Joyce Carol Oates at The New Yorker:
When Theodor Adorno declared, in 1949, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” he could hardly have anticipated the ensuing quantity of poetry and prose that actually concerned itself with the Holocaust, still less its astonishing range and depth. The category now encompasses the densely narrated psychological-historical realism of André Schwarz-Bart and Imre Kertész, the Kafka-inspired dreamscapes of Aharon Appelfeld, and, later, the elliptical, deeply original fictions of W. G. Sebald. As the generations of firsthand witnesses give way to younger generations, literary works that confront the subject have often been more circumspect; recent novels by Susanna Moore and Ayelet Waldman achieve their emotional power by focussing upon characters peripheral to the terrible European history that has nonetheless altered their lives. The conflagration must be glimpsed indirectly, following Appelfeld’s admonition that “one does not look directly into the sun.”
Such circumspection has not been Martin Amis’s strategy in approaching the Holocaust. The Nazi death camps at Auschwitz provide a setting for Amis’s tour de force “Time’s Arrow: or The Nature of the Offense” (1991), in which the lifetime of a Nazi doctor-experimenter is presented in reverse chronological order, from the instant of his death (as the affable American Tod Friendly) to his conception (as the ominously named German Odilo Unverdorben), witnessed by a part of himself that seems to be his conscience, or his soul.