New Issue of Portuguese Literary & Cultural Studies: Facts and Fictions of Antonio Lobo Antunes

Since every day is a good day to talk about how great Antonio Lobo Antunes’s works are, I was really excited to get a copy of the new double-sized issue of Portuguese Literary & Cultural Studies in the mail today and find that it’s dedicated to Antunes.

There are a lot of articles in here that sound really interesting, including “The Geographers’ Manual: The Place of Place in Antonio Lobo Antunes” by translator Richard Zenith and “‘You Don’t Invent Anything’: Memory and the Patterns of Fiction in Lobo Antunes’s Works” by Felipe Cammaert, but the two that really jump out are “Still Facts and Living Fictions: The Literary Work of Antonio Lobo Antunes, An Introduction” by Maria Alzira Seixo, and “Prescription to Read Me” by Antonio Lobo Antunes himself.

The opening to Seixo’s introduction sums things up pretty nicely:

Antonio Lobo Antunes is undoubtedly one of the best writers in contemporary Western literature. One may be skeptical to accept this assertion at face value, but the only way to check its validity is by reading the novels and volumes of chronicles published by the author since 1979. As we read on we recognize: a) a particular sensitivity to important events in contemporary Portuguese history [. . .] b) the writer’s individual experience, as a participant in Portugal’s war agains the pro-independence movements in Africa in the 1960s and 70s [. . .] as a consequence of which he associates colonialism and the practice of medicine with everyday life: childhood, family, marriage, love, eroticism, friendship, loneliness, social handicaps, old age, the proximity of death, and, above all, both the zeal and the pain in the task of writing; c) a very original conception of narrative and a beautifully organized verbal rhythm, which transforms the themes and social concerns of his novels into perfect fictional poetry.

But Antunes’s brief piece (translated by Valeria M. Souza) is really the gem of this volume. I wish I could include the whole thing here (it’s only two pages), but I don’t have time to type it all out (and maybe probably shouldn’t) . . . Here’s a taste, anyway:

Whenever anyone declares having read a book of mine I am disappointed by the error. That’s because my books are not ot be read in the sense usually called reading: the only way it seems to me to approach the novels that I writer is to catch them in the same manner that one catches an illness. [. . .] Each of you must renounce your own key, the one we all have with which to open life, our own and that of others, and use the key that the text gives you. [. . .] You must abandon yourselves to its apparent carelessness, to its suspensions, to the long ellipses, to the shadowy comings and goings of the waves that, little by little, will carry you to an encounter with fatal darkness, indispensable to the rebirth and renovation of the spirit. It is necessary that our trust in common values dissolve page by page, that our deceptive interior cohesion gradually lose the meaning that it does not possess and yet that we gave it, in order that another order be born from that shock, perhaps bitter but inevitable. I would like the novels in bookstores, rather than being placed beside one another, to be kept apart and in a hermetic box, so as not to infect other narratives or unprepared readers: it costs dearly to seek a lie and find a truth.

And there we are.

For another introduction to Antunes’s work, you can check out this piece I wrote for the most recent issue of Quarterly Conversation.

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