Review of The Land at the End of the World by António Lobo Antunes

ISBN 0393077764 (ISBN13: 9780393077766)

Antunes tunes into vivid illusions. Had I known of his work, I wouldn’t have bothered reading László Krasznahorkai.

Mr. Lobo’s work has the same breathless fluidity, but the imagery is stronger, the dramatic pulse is quicker, and it appears far more inclusive, as opposed to the Hungarian’s stark Beckett-like isolationism.

This great Portuguese war surgeon turned writer utilizes warlike tangles of symbolism to tango with heartache and human futility. Within nested imagery and dense, coupling metaphors, he explores multilayered settings with floral sentences, replete with luscious detail, free associating between dreamlike war reminiscences and enigmatic conquests. His haunting, serpentine, grisly prose, is both harrowing and alluring to behold. His seamless narration passes from atmospheric locales like a disembodied spirit of defiance, blending poetry and terror in a grueling alphabet soup of evanescent verbal eruptions. Since this is an anguished monologue, it dehumanizes with its existential horror and paints rich pastiches of a war-torn Angola from the desperate exile of Lisbon.

Baring his soul, the narrator conjures famous artists: Rembrandt, Dali, Bosch – overlaying their immortal scenes with his own shattered memory – “Cézanne’s card players” appear before his beleaguered eyes, and so do “El Greco’s greyhounds” and Magritte’s skies. There are many integrated literary references and a tone reminiscent of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, about men forgotten in far corners of the world, struggling to undo the incomprehensible atrocities of well-fed, demonic leaders. An uncomfortably profound read. A lucid nightmare of knotted analogies. And some of the most enlightening rants I’ve ever encountered.

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