The Independents Johann Hari har intervjuet Martin Amis i anledning hans nye bok «The Second Plane», en samling artikler om 9/11 and all that. Det er en lang, konversasjon, der journalisten er helt ute av evne til å forstå hva objektet sier. Frustrasjonen stiger.

Intervjuet åpner med at Amis forteller om alle de muslimske jentene han var kjæreste med på 60-tallet. Amis vil gjerne gi litt background, om sitt eget liv, og om hvor mye tidene har endret seg. Den gang var det en selvfølge at noen var kyske og andre mindre kyske.

Men Hari forholder seg psykologiserende: han skal ha svar på hvorfor Amis kunne si de «forferdelige» tingene i et intervju i 2006, som nå kalles the Race War, nok av folk som han selv. Amis forsøker hele tiden å si noe annet, men blir ikke hørt.

So how did the man who courted Muslim girls, who says he loves the ethnic swirl of London, end up saying to an interviewer in the summer of 2006: «There’s a definite urge – don’t you have it? – to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suffering? Not let them travel. Deportation, further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.»

The quote floated past unnoticed until Professor Terry Eagleton fished it out to use in an introduction to a book last autumn – and The Race Row began. «I really am not racist, and I just don’t feel it,» Amis says, inhaling more nicotine. «You have to look at the timing of the thing. The third jihadist conspiracy in 13 months [to blow up a series of jumbo jets over the Atlantic] had just been exposed. My children were taking transatlantic flights all that summer. And – I know this is sublime-ridiculous – but I had just had someone come up from London to stay and they were telling me how they couldn’t take a book on a transatlantic flight. I just thought this was a triumph for the forces of stupidity, literalism, ignorance, humourlessness.» He says he isn’t going to deny he felt that way, for a moment – but it wasn’t a proposal, just a «thought experiment», and it wasn’t «racist», just «retaliatory».

But is this true? Your impulse wasn’t to retaliate against the people who committed the crime; no, your impulse was to moot punishing people who were innocent of any crime at all.

Amis forsøker senere å si at det er nettopp fordi London er blitt multietnisk at han reagerer som han gjør. Et multietnisk samfunn er sårbart for T-banebomber av sinte, unge menn.

«Can I just say something?» he says. «One of the reasons I reacted the way I did [in August 2006] is because I am protective of our multiracial society. I thought – they’re going to fuck it up. Look at London, this amazing multiracial city, but there’s a few miserable bastards, who through an absolutely vile brew of dreams of impotence, or omnipotence, and sadism, and the love of blood and sadism and horror, are going to ruin it for us. It wasn’t just about protecting white people. A multiracial society is very vulnerable to that kind of thing.» If he has racist impulses, then the anti-racist antibodies soon flood in after them.

Men journalisten må psykologisere Amis. Han vurderer alt Amis sier som en psykiater: utenfra.

Amis’s cognitive dissonance seems to squat in the room, like a physical presence. With the right lobe of his brain, Amis tells me he loves our multiracial society, and he says it with vigour and rigour. I don’t for a second think he’s lying. But then, with the left lobe he passionately praises a writer who seems to me to be an outright racist, one who damns virtually all Muslims as secret Sharia-carriers and brags that the «white» birth-rate is still higher in the US. It is as though Amis has been fractured by the kerosene blast of September 11 into two people – and they aren’t talking.

Amis er shizofren: det er en venstreorientert ungdom som er begravet under en post-9/11 xenofobisk, instinktdrevet person og hvis denne får herje fritt har Storbritannia mistet en av sine beste forfattere. Slik lyder diagnosen han stiller.

The two faces of Amis

To supporters, he’s one of the few public figures brave enough to speak the truth about Islam and the failures of multiculturalism. To opponents, he’s just a mouthpiece for racism. So who is the real Martin Amis? Johann Hari finds out