A haunting new novel that ratifies Martin Amis’s standing as “a force unto himself,” as the Washington Post has attested: “There is simply no one else like him.”
In the slave labour camps of the Soviet Union, conjugal visits were a common occurrence. Valiant women would travel vast distances, over weeks and months, in the hope of spending just one night with their lovers in the so-called House of Meetings. Unsurprisingly, the results of these visits were almost invariably tragic.
Martin Amis’s new novel, The House of Meetings, is about one such visit; it is a love story, gothic in timbre and triangular in shape. Two brothers fall in love with the same woman, a nineteen-year-old Jewish girl, in 1946 Moscow, a city poised for pogrom in the gap between war and the death of Stalin. The brothers are arrested, and their fraternal conflict then marinates over the course of a decade in a slave labour camp above the Arctic Circle. The destinies of all three lovers remain unresolved until 1982; but for the sole survivor, the reverberations continue into the next century.
A short novel of great depth and richness, The House of Meetings finds Martin Amis at the height of his powers, in new and remarkably fertile fictional territory.
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House of Meetings Is an Amazon Significant Seven selection for March 2007With The House of Meetings, Martin Amis may finally have written the novel his critics thought would never come. By taming his signature (and polarizing) stylistic high-wire act, Amis has crafted a sober tale of love and cynicism against the grim curtain of Stalin's Russia. The book's anonymous narrator--a Red Army veteran and unapologetic war criminal--and his passive, poetic half-brother, Lev, become pinned in a politically dangerous love triangle with the exotic Zoya, though their tactics (and intentions) are as divergent as their personalities. Swept up in the wave of Stalin's paranoid purges, the brothers are sent independently to Norlag, a Siberian internment camp where their respective fates are cast through their contrasting reactions to the depravity of the prison. Zoya and Lev share a night in "The House of Meetings," a room provided for conjugal visits with the prisoners, and the events of that night reverberate through the decades, the details of the liaison remaining concealed until the story's devastating denouement.
Amis's main achievement is his depiction of the cruel realities of the Soviet gulags. Drawing heavily on his research for Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million, his half-history/half-memoir of political imprisonment and industrial-scale killing in Soviet Russia, Amis has created his own Animal Farm--without metaphors to mask the blood, filth, and death of the camps. Amis vividly recreates the social structure of gulag life, as the inmates and guards sort themselves into distinct hierarchies and stations in their struggles to survive the rigors of the gulag. Here The House of Meetings may accomplish what Amis had intended for the unfocused Koba: to cast a searing light on an often overlooked episode of 20th century inhumanity and mass murder. --Jon Foro
Martin Amis is the bestselling author of several books, including London Fields, Money, The Information, and Experience. He lives in London.
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Book Description Knopf Canada, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0676977871