I somehow missed it when this first appeared online, but here’s a link to my review of Antonio Lobo Antunes’s The Land at the End of the World, which has been newly translated by Margaret Jull Costa and brought out by W.W. Norton.
Antunes is one of my favorite authors, so expect Grant Barber’s full length review of this book to appear on this site in the next week, and I’ll be writing a much longer Antunes piece for the fall issue of Quarterly Conversation.
Back to the subject at hand, I just want to say that The Land at the End of the World is one of Antunes’s absolute best books. I also love Fado Alexandrino and Act of the Damned, but if you’re looking for a place to start with him, this one is probably the best.
You can read the whole review over at Bookforum’s website, but here’s a bit from it:
Antunes’s later novels—Act of the Damned and Fado Alexandrino in particular—are equal parts Céline and William Faulkner. The plots are more labyrinthine, the novels more polyphonic. It’s as if the kernel of Antunes’s rage has crystallized into a complex design, more nuanced in its depiction of Portuguese society, one that requires more engagement on the part of the reader to fully comprehend the tapestry of voices, plots, and viewpoints.
Which is why The Land at the End of the World is like reading Antunes’s novelistic template. It’s very straightforward: Over the course of an entire night, a psychiatrist/writer, back from the war, gets wasted in a bar while seducing a (silent) woman with his tales of anguish and hatred. It advances through a series of rants, grotesque metaphors, and repetitions that lay bare his shortcomings, while making him sympathetically bleak:
I think I lost her in the same way I lose everything, drove her away with my mood swings, my unexpected rages, my absurd demands, the anxious thirst for tenderness that repels affection and lingers, throbbing painfully, in the form of a mute appeal full of a prickly, irrational hostility.
“The small stone plaza was floating in the midday heat. The Christ of Elqui, kneeling on the ground, his gaze thrown back on high, the part in his hair dark under the Atacaman sun—he felt himself falling into an ecstasy.. . .
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To have watched from one of your patios
the ancient stars
from the bank of shadow to have watched
the scattered lights
my ignorance has learned no names for
nor their places in constellations
to have heard the ring of. . .
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