Synopses & Reviews
"The narrator of this stark and elegantly translated novel is a psychiatrist named Antnio Lobo Antunes, returning from vacation to his loathed job at Miguel Bombarda Hospital in Lisbon. Over the course of the trip, the narrator's mind ranges over the monstrosities he encountered in the colonial wars in Angola in the 1970s and in his work; through the layering of memories, he draws parallels between the destruction of the war and the questionable care offered to the mentally ill. The novel is both stylistically and emotionally demanding: the point of view shifts back and forth from first- to third-person as the narrative develops in a plotless associative collage, including a hallucinatory episode in which hospital employees gleefully consume the corpse of a soldier. The novel has a heavy autobiographical element and presents a bleak vision of humanity, except in the narrator's tender appeals to Joanna, his daughter, to whom much of the novel is addressed. In this early work (first published in Portugal in 1983), Antunes transforms rage into gorgeous, lyrical language." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Like his creator, the narrator of this novel is a psychiatrist who loathes psychiatry, a veteran of the despised 1970s colonial war waged by Portugal against Angola, a survivor of a failed marriage, and a man seeking meaning in an uncaring and venal society. The reader joins Antunes on a journey both real and phantasmagorical as he travels by car from a vacation in the Algarve back to his hated work as a psychiatrist at a Lisbon mental institution. In the course of one long day and evening, he carries on an imaginary conversation with his daughter Joanna, observes with surreal vision the bleak countryside of his nation, recalls the horrors of his involuntary role in the suppression of Angolan independence, and curses the charlatanism of contemporary psychiatric advances that destroy rather than heal.