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Martin Amis, British author of era-defining novels, dies at 73

Writer Martin Amis has died at 73.
Tom Craig/Bill Charles Agency
Writer Martin Amis has died at 73.

Influential British author Martin Amis has died at his home in Lake Worth, Fla., of esophageal cancer. He was 73.

His agent, Andrew Wiley, and his publisher, Vintage Books, confirmed his death on Saturday.

"It's hard to imagine a world without Martin Amis in it," said his U.K. editor Michal Shavit, in a statement shared with NPR. "He has been so important and formative for so many readers and writers over the last half century. Every time he published a new book it was an event. He will be remembered as one of the greatest writers of his time and his books will stand the test of time alongside some of his favourite writers: Saul Bellow, John Updike, and Vladimir Nabokov."

Over a career spanning more than 40 years, Amis became one of the world's leading literary celebrities, known best for novels including Money, The Information and London Fields that came to define British life in the late 20th century. He published 15 novels as well as a memoir, short stories, screenplays and works of nonfiction.

Many of his titles, including the debut novel he wrote while working as an editorial assistant at The Times Literary Supplement, 1973's The Rachel Papers, were adapted for the screen. The film version of his 2014 novel The Zone of Interest premiered only Friday at the Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews.

The film tells the story of a senior Nazi military officer's family who live next door to Auschwitz.

"Martin Amis's work was as singular as his voice — that wicked intelligence, the darkest of humor, and such glorious prose," said Oscar Villalon, editor of the literary journal ZYZZYVA and former San Francisco Chronicle books editor. "But it was how he scoped the corruption of contemporary life — indeed, how he unpacked the evil of the 20th century — that gives his work an urgency that will remain potent."

In a 2012 interview with NPR's Weekend Edition, Amis shared his discomfort with being famous.

"I don't see the glory of fame," Amis told host Linda Wertheimer. "And I can't imagine why people covet it."

In his later years, Amis sparked controversy for his views. He was accused of Islamophobia over comments in an interview. He advocated for euthanasia booths as a way to handle the U.K.'s aging population.

The son of another renowned British novelist, Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis was born in 1949 in Oxford, England and attended schools in the U.K., Spain and the U.S. before graduating from Oxford University with a degree in English literature.

The British literary establishment often compared the father with the son, much to the son's consternation. In a 2000 interview with NPR's Morning Edition, Amis said his father, who rocketed to fame in the 1950s with his novel Lucky Jim, discouraged him from pursuing a literary career and wasn't a fan of his "modernist" writing style.

"He didn't like prose, period. He was a poet as well as a novelist, and poetry was actually his passion," Amis told Renée Montagne. "And he hated it if I did any kind of modernist tricks, like unreliable narrators. Anything of that kind would have him hurling the books of the air."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.