Tag Archives: antonio lobo antunes

Antunes and Falkner, No Link

Got it?

Let’s sever the link between Antunes and Faulkner before moving on. Early in The Death of Carlos Gardel (1994, unavailable in English), there’s an eleven page monologue by a great-great-grandfather that’s identical to the syntax in The Sound and the Fury (the past interrupting the present in italics), and yet Antunes, as if acknowledging the influence but signaling he will take it from here, kills the great-great-grandfather by the end of those eleven pages, and that exact syntax is never to be seen again. Faulkner’s and Antunes’s “quality of vision” is not similar either, so to dismiss Antunes by claiming Faulkner did it first is ridiculous. No one writes like Antonio Lobo Antunes.

Antonio Lobo Antunes Interview

Discussing his newest book in English:

Your author bio mentions that you were trained as a psychiatrist and served as a military doctor in Portugal’s war in Angola before becoming a writer. This experience seems to be at the heart of The Land at the End of the World, which takes the form of the soul-baring rant of a Portuguese war veteran honing in on a sexual conquest in a late 1970s Lisbon nightclub. How do you see this novel now, which has since been acclaimed as a literary masterpiece on the absurdities and wretchedness of war?

I started that book more than thirty years ago, as a very young man. In the first versions, there was no war at all. In many ways, it’s impossible to speak about the war directly. For me, it was a personal matter. When I arrived in Africa I looked up at the sky and said, “I don’t know these stars. Where am I? What am I doing here?” I just wanted to return alive. I remember we kept calendars and would cross off each day that we were still alive! I’ve talked to people who were in the Vietnam War, the Algerian War, and I’ve understood them perfectly. You can’t say these things to your wife or your son because they won’t understand it. It’s too strange an experience. It’s unreal.

So I never set out to write a book about the war. I was very interested in the relationship between the man who speaks and the woman who listens . . .

The Land at the End of the World by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Sam Munson with a nice review of The Land at the End of the World, just published in English translation:

The book recounts its narrator’s misadventures as an adolescent and young man in Lisbon’s stifling society, as a bewildered, terrified and furious army medic in the hinterlands of Angola and as a young husband and father, loving but unfaithful.

Indeed, sexual longing, of the tawdry and often unfulfilled variety, forms a central element in the novel: Lobo Antunes structures his book as a series of 23 brief chapters, narrated from the murky present of a long, dull Lisbon night, through which the protagonist examines his own past in a long, broken monologue aimed at seducing a nameless woman he has met in a bar, in whom he feels only a rote, conventional interest.

The book’s diction and style are idiosyncratic in the extreme, for good and ill. The narrator – as perhaps befits a man who lacks any real sense of himself and of his social and historical context – can hardly speak more than a sentence without introducing a simile, even in the case of relatively commonplace objects, even in the book’s opening pages, where the narrator recalls his youthful trips to the Lisbon zoo with his father

The Portuguese Novelist of Complaint

Before he became a novelist, António Lobo Antunes was traumatized by his nightmarish experiences in the Portuguese Colonial war of the 1960s and ’70s. Serving as an army psychiatrist in Angola and other “lands at the end of the world,” Antunes—and many of his narrators—witnessed horrors as the Portuguese government tried to violently quell nationalist movements in their African colonies. If the treatment of the locals, the pointlessness of the war, and the living conditions of the soldiers weren’t wretched enough, troops returning to Portugal were faced with new social conditions, and were generally despised and alienated.

All of these wrongs fuel Antunes’s literary work, in particular The Land at the End of the World (Os Cus de Judas, 1979), his first and most autobiographical novel (here translated by Margaret Jull Costa). By seizing on his rage and transforming it into blisteringly energetic—and darkly comic—prose, Antunes places himself in the tradition of other “authors of complaint” such as Thomas Bernhard and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Ranting against the stupidity of society, against war, against fame, ignorance, the inequalities of life, etc., these authors craft screeds that bluntly expose and critique society, charming readers with the direct way they speak truth to power and a sort of manic humor . . .

More from Chad Post on The Land at the End of the World by António Lobo Antunes at Bookforum:


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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