This is the eighth Reading the World 2008 title we’re covering. Write-ups of the other titles can be found here. And information about the Reading the World program—a special collaboration between publishers and independent booksellers to promote literature in translation throughout the month of June—is available at the official RTW website.
Feverish and hallucinatory, this early novel of Antunes centers around a psychiatrist who participated in the war between Portugal and Angola and hates the practice of psychiatry. Very intense, vitriolic, and occasionally funny (well, at least in one section), this novel is very representative of Antunes, especially early in his career before he became more comfortable with varying his tone, working in more black humor, etc.
I wrote a full review of this back when it came out, and stand by my statement that it’s not his best book. (This recent review in Quarterly Conversation echoes those sentiments. It really is like Faulkner without the funny.)
Ben Lytal’s review in the New York Sun is more forgiving:
But finally, in the long haul of Mr. Antunes’s demanding and effectively overwritten screed, we realize that his narrator is hallucinating, flopping from one memory to the other with such radical accompanying sensory disorientation for the sheer bitter irony of it. To go a little crazy: It’s his ultimate rebellion against psychiatry — or at least it’s his weekend release. Typically Portuguese, perhaps, the literary art of Mr. Antunes turns his point-blank negativity into a refined, self-consuming protest: the psychological novel that can’t believe in itself.
Nevertheless, Antunes is an amazing writer—one of the most important Portuguese writers of all-time, and one of the most talented working today.
There is another book of Antunes’s coming out this fall— What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire? which is coming out from W.W. Norton in September. And as a special bonus, Antunes is going to be coming to America for the first time in years. He’s going to be in New York—at NYU and the NY Public Library, I believe—around September 22nd, and will be in Washington D.C. on the 26th. I’ll post more about this—including the flap copy—in the near future, after I start reading the book. . . .
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