The Washington Post
What Can I Do When Everything's On Fire?: A Novelby Antonio Lobo Antunes
A soaring, symphonic epic by the Portuguese master novelist, considered to be the "heir to Conrad and Faulkner" (George Steiner).The razor-thin line between reality and madness is transgressed in this Faulknerian masterpiece, António Lobo Antunes's first novel to appear in English in five years. What Can I Do When Everything's On Fire?, set in/em>/p>
A soaring, symphonic epic by the Portuguese master novelist, considered to be the "heir to Conrad and Faulkner" (George Steiner).The razor-thin line between reality and madness is transgressed in this Faulknerian masterpiece, António Lobo Antunes's first novel to appear in English in five years. What Can I Do When Everything's On Fire?, set in the steamy world of Lisbon's demimonde—a nightclub milieu of scorching intensity and kaleidoscopic beauty, a baleful planet populated by drag queens, clowns, and drug addicts—is narrated by Paolo, the son of Lisbon's most legendary transvestite, who searches for his own identity as he recalls the harrowing death of his father, Carlos; the life of Carlos's lover, Rui, a heroin addict and suicide; as well as the other denizens of this hallucinatory world. Psychologically penetrating, pregnant with literary symbolism, and deeply sympathetic in its depiction of society's dregs, Lobo Antunes's novel ventriloquizes the voices of the damned in a poetic masterwork that recalls Joyce's Ulysses with a dizzying farrago of urban images few readers will forget.
The Washington Post
This ambitious epic novel about the life and loves of a Lisbon drag queen is also a page-turner, but only in the sense that one must constantly refer to the provided Dramatis Personae to keep the characters straight. Lobo Antunes (The Return of the Caravels) is that rare contemporary writer who treats the page as a canvas; his prose is rich in lyrical and psychological detail and filled with repeated phrases and enigmatic symbols-a jackdaw, a mastiff with a bow, the figure of a dwarf from Snow White atop a refrigerator-that evoke memories or dreams. While most of the novel is narrated by Paulo, son of the drag queen Carlos (based on a real Lisbon transvestite, Ruth Bryden, who died in 1999), the occasional passages related by other narrators are written in the same unique style, which makes it difficult to tell them apart. This is a fine introduction to the work of a highly rewarding author but may require a commitment of several months to digest. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author
António Lobo Antunes, born in 1942, is the author of novels including What Can I Do When Everything’s On Fire? and Act of the Damned. He lives in Lisbon, Portugal.
Gregory Rabassa (1922-2016) was the recipient of multiple prizes including a lifetime achievement award from the PEN American Center for contributions to Hispanic literature and a National Medal of Arts. He was the translator of One Hundred Years of Solitude, among other classic works.
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