In addition to Bolano’s 2666, the other big (in every sense of the word) galley I’ve been waiting for is Antonio Lobo Antunes’s What Can I Do When Everything’s On Fire?, which is due out in September from W.W. Norton.
Well, it arrived yesterday:
It’s only 585 pages long and is prefaced with a “Dramatis Personae” and maps of the Lisbon region and the city itself in order to help orient readers.
I’m one of those people (and there really are quite a few), who feel that Antunes should’ve won the Nobel over Saramago. His books are more dense, complicated, and “challenging” than Saramago’s, but also have a wider range of style and tone. He’s a very rewarding writer, who writes in the Joyce/Faulkner vein. (In fact there’s a quote on the back of this galley from George Steiner claiming that Antunes is the “heir to Conrad and Faulkner.” His books are also frequently compared to those of Dos Passos and Celine.)
Here’s the jacket description:
The razor-thin line between reality and madness is transgressed in this Faulknerian masterpiece, Antonio Lobo Antunes’s first novel to appear in English in five years. [sic — see Knowledge of Hell ] What Can I Do When Everything’s On Fire?, set in the steamy world of Lisbon’s demimonde—a nightclub milieu of scorching intensity and kaleidoscopic beauty, a baleful planet populated by drag queens, clowns, and drug addicts—is narrated by Paolo, the son of Lisbon’s most legendary transvestite, who searches for his own identity as he recalls the harrowing death of his father, Carlos; the life of Carlos’s lover, Rui, a heroin addict and suicide; as well as the other denizens of this hallucinatory world. Psychologically penetrating, pregnant with literary symbolism, and deeply sympathetic in its depiction of society’s dregs, Lobo Antunes’s novel ventriloquizes the voices of the damned in a poetic masterwork that recalls Joyce’s Ulysses with a dizzying farrago of urban images few readers will forget.
I promise to review this without a single mention of Joyce or Faulkner . . . And now I’m seriously booked in terms of my reading through the end of the year . . .
Though far from the most convincing reason to read literature in translation, one common side effect is learning of another culture, of its history. Within that, and a stronger motivation to read, is the discovery of stories not possible within. . .
Despite cries that literature is dead, dying, and self-replicating in the worst way, once in a while a book comes along to remind readers that there’s still a lot of surprise to be found on the printed page. To be. . .
“I was small. And my village was small, I came to know that in time. But when I was small it was big for me, so big that when I had to cross it from one end to the other,. . .
A few weeks after moving into a farm house in the Welsh countryside, Emilie, an expatriate from the Netherlands, starts to think about her uncle. This uncle tried to drown himself in a pond in front of the hotel where. . .
Think back to the last adventure- or action-type book you read. Wasn’t it cool? Didn’t it make you want to do things, like learn to shoot a crossbow, hack complicated information systems, travel to strange worlds, take on knife-wielding thugs,. . .
In Aira’s Shantytown, while we’re inside the characters’ heads for a good portion of the story, the voice we read on the page is really that of Aira himself, as he works out the plot of the book he’s writing.. . .
Noir is not an easy genre to define—or if it once was, that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; as a quick guess, maybe Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 1935. When two books as different as. . .
Some time ago I read this phrase: “The page is the only place in the universe God left blank for me.”
Pedro Mairal’s short novel The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra is more about these blank spaces than the usual full. . .
“What if even in the afterlife you have to know foreign languages? Since I have already suffered so much trying to speak Danish, make sure to assign me to the Polish zone . . .”
So reads a typical aphoristic “poem”. . .
If you somehow managed to overlook the 2012 translation of Andrés Neuman’s breathtaking Traveler of the Century (and woe betide all whom continue to do so), you now have two exceptional works of fiction from the young Argentine virtuoso demanding. . .