cover image Knowledge of Hell

Knowledge of Hell

Antonio Lobo Antunes, , trans. from the Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers. . Dalkey Archive, $13.95 (298pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-436-0

The narrator of this stark and elegantly translated novel is a psychiatrist named António 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. (Mar.)