Tuesday, June 08, 2004


António Lobo Antunes born in Lisbon in 1942. Antonio Lobo Antunes is one of a handful of Portuguese writers who is named regularly as a possible candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Lobo Antunes emerged in the 1980s as one of Portugal's most important post-revolutionary authors.

He graduated in Medecine and later specialised in Psychiatry. He has devoted his life to both the practice of medicine and the writing of a number of books. He was awarded the Portuguese Writers' Association (APE) Grand Prize in 1985 for the novel "Auto dos Danados" (Act of the Damned) and, in 2000, for "Exortação aos Crocodilos" (Exhortation to the Crocodiles). His work has been widely translated.

Excerpt of "The Inquisitor's Manual".
Translated by Richard Zenith

And as I walked into the courtroom in Lisbon I thought about the farm. Not the farm as it is today, with the garden statues all smashed, the swimming pool without water, the kennels and the flower beds overrun by couch grass, the old manor house full of leaks in the roof, the rain falling on the piano with the autographed picture of the queen, on the chess table missing half the chessmen, on the torn-up carpet and on the aluminum cot that I set up in the kitchen, next to the stove, where I toss and turn all night, afflicted by the cackling of the crows.
as I walked into the courtroom in Lisbon I didn't think about the farm as it is today but about the farm and the house in my father's day, when Setúbal.
(a city as insignificant as a provincial small town, a few lights dancing around the bandstand in the square, flickers in the dark night pierced by the dogs' anguished howls).
hadn't yet reached the main gate and the willows along the wall but sloped straight down to the river in a jumble of trawlers and taverns, Setúbal where the housekeeper did the shopping on Sunday mornings, dragging me along by the elbow under the flurrying pigeons.
the house and farm from my father's day with the staircase flanked by granite angels, with hyacinths growing all along the walls, and with a bustle of maids in the hallways like the people bustling in the lobby outside the courtroom.
(it was July and the trees on the Rua Marquês da Fronteira twisted in the sun against the building façades).
in clusters that hurriedly formed and disbanded around the elevators, and amid all the witnesses and defendants and bailiffs, my lawyer, holding the sleeve of my sweater, pointed out the steps.
"This way, Senhor João, divorces are this way."
and I, oblivious to him, oblivious to the courtroom, remembered that long-ago July in Palmela.
(I must have been fifteen or sixteen years old because the new garage next to the beech trees was being built, the tractor rumbled beyond the vegetable garden, and the metal blades of the windmill creaked in the heat).
when I heard murmurs and whispers and steps in the chapel, not the sounds of chickens or turtledoves or magpies but of people, perhaps the gypsies from Azeitão making off with the Virgin Mary and the carved candlesticks.
(women in black skirts, men blowing on flames under coffeepots, sad scrawny mules).
and I grabbed one of the canes from the stoneware umbrella stand in the foyer and trotted across the dining room.
"This way, Senhor João, divorces are this way."
where the chandelier sprinkled glass shadows onto the tablecloth, I leapt over the flower bed with birds-of-paradise, I leapt over the petunias, the chapel door was open, the candles fluttered under the arches, but I didn't find the gypsies from Azeitão.
(women in black skirts, men blowing on flames under coffeepots, sad scrawny mules).
I found the cook lying flat out on the altar, her clothes all tousled, with her apron around her neck, and my father beet red, cigarillo in his mouth and hat on his head, holding on to her hips and looking at me without anger or surprise, and on that same Sunday, after yelling his responses to the priest's Latin along with the steward, the housekeeper, and the maids, lighting up his cigarillos during communion, my father.
(the wind shook the withered dahlias and the swamp's eucalyptus trees, which expanded and contracted to the rhythm of the algae's breathing).
called me into his office whose window faced the greenhouse of orchids and the murmur of the sea.
"Let's hope your wife is on time, so the judge doesn't reschedule your divorce for the Greek calends".
(but there weren't any seagulls, you don't find seagulls on that side of the mountains).
and he stood up from his desk, walked around it toward me, pulled his Zippo lighter from his vest, and placed his hand around my neck as if he were inspecting a lamb or a calf from the stable.
"I do everything a woman wants except take my hat off, so that she won't forget who's boss."
My father with his hand on the neck of the steward's teenage daughter, a dirty, barefoot redhead who squatted on a wooden stool while squeezing the cows' teats, my father grabbing her by the neck and forcing her to bend over the manger while still holding on to the pails of milk, my father once more beet red as he rammed his navel into her buttocks, the tip of his lit cigarillo pointing at the rafters without the steward's daughter ever once protesting, without the steward ever protesting, without anyone ever protesting or thinking of protesting, my father lifting his hand from my neck and disdainfully waving toward the kitchen, the maids' quarters, the orchard, the whole farm, the whole world.

Antonio Lobo Antunes///Jose Luis Peixoto///Jose Saramago

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