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Fado Alexandrino 'In this new work by the foremost Portuguese novelist the reunion of five men on the tenth anniversary of their battalion's return from Mozambiue Portugal's Vietnam ends in a fatal stabbing which ultimately serves as an act of liberation for the corrupt city of Lisbon' Newsday Two years ago Lobo Antunes pissed people off by making the unarguable statement that by the time he was 40 about the age the 2001 crowd is now he had already published Fado Alexandrino one of the greatest novels of the 20th century and they had nothing of identical power to show for It’s easier to prove 2 and 2 euals 5 than refuting that statement They’re not even trying instant success and hyperbolic adulation has curbed their development Miguel Difficult dense dirty disturbing dazzling Everyone is familiar with the concept of a great american novel This book might be easily called “ a great Portuguese novel” It encompasses traumatic relatively recent past of the country including desperate bloody wars for african colonial possessions followed by the revolution against the dictatorship in 1974 and its aftermath Four main characters all ex millitary men irrevocably damaged by the war are having the reunion 10 years after coming back The book is intermingled monologue of these four during the events of this very long night To say that the characters are unlikable would be an understatement but they are deeply human all the same There is a lot of violence sex and black humour on these pages There are also very acute and bleak observations of a society under the dramatic change the meaning of this change and how each human being is forced to be a part of it It is a very male dominated novel There are a lot of female characters but we only see them through the eyes of these four men For them the women are either the objects of their admiration or instruments for fulfilling their needs This attitude reminded me the essay “Courtly Love or Woman as Thing” by Zizek It is my third novel by Antunes and i love his uniue style of writing It could be called “stream of consciousness” but it is the stream by at least three characters In this novel there are four voices talking moving forwards and backwards in time between the reality and the imaginary of their thoughts It is impossible to appreciate this novel without giving it a full concentration But it pays off in my case He manages to combine very bleak sometimes violent content with lyricism and beautiful imaginary He also is very good in showing the different layers of a moment how the outside reality is juxtaposed with the one inside someone’s head For example in the fragment below the protagonist is talking to another character the captain Mendes all along thinking about his departure from a woman in Goa many years ago She didn’t even speak in the morning when I left her in the tumbledown house beneath a huge thunderclap where invisible hands were torturing the clouds as if they were bread dough The trees were agitated with tics the brimstone light was shedding uick copper coloured flashes over the few unmatched pieces of furniture Not a word not a sound her damp fingers extended an absolute lack of expression on her face the Jeep heaving hesitantly in the windstorm battered by loose leaves trash gusts of water splashed of mud brought up be the wheels just like spit Through the body the words the face the tunic of captain Mendes he saw the house growing smaller in the distance the restless river the anguish of the woods his own heart microscopic vibrating Now you are watching the rain fall in some village or other cookstoves fashioned out of three piles of stones over a small cone of hot coals and twisted logsIt is a long novel It is a demanding novel I have to admit I felt a bit tired by the last 50 pages The knowledge of context would be probably a plus However it is a wise and stylistically superb book As other readers have said this is NOT an easy book to read due to the stream of consciousness the characters not being given names described by military rank very slow reading But worth it I thought Five men are having a reunion on the 10th anniversary of their return from Mozambiue having served in the Portugese army at the very end of the occupation of Mozambiue returning home just before the overthrow of the Portugese dictatorship It helps to know at least a little of mid 20th Century Portugese history For 500 hundred pages we follow these soldiers and their wives girlfriends bosses oomrades lives for better or worse mostly for worse A fascinating rather beautiful book Over the course of one long long night five military men who fought in the Portuguese Colonial Wars get blasted and tell their life stories from before the revolution during the revolution and after the revolution Each chapter centers on one of the particular characters the lowly foot soldier the lieutenant colonel who returns from the colonies to find out his wife has died the communist supporting communications officer the second lieutenant whose rich wife leaves him for another woman but voices mingle across chapters and the past and present become nearly indistinguishable a literary muddle of moments some humorous but most pretty emotional and dire And filled with detritus In Antunes's world everything is a bit broken dirty faded fat and gross It's as if all of his characters are living in the entropic end times and trying to figure out how to keep themselves together In many ways this is the prototypical Antunes novel literature as tapestryDrowning in words that crash rumble streak past drip down through the cracks in the ceiling swell up from the pages and invade my brain stumble drop fall plunge from every page topple my usual sense of books I made it through FADO ALEXANDRINO to the very end sometimes wondering why I was subjecting myself to such a difficult novel sometimes rejoicing that I'd heard of it by chance many years ago Lobo Antunes whose other works I didn't know has written a nearly 500 page masterpiece which definitely is not for everyone It demands close attention it demands patience and you have to like the flow of language That this is the case even in English is a tribute to the famous translator Gregory Rabassa who almost single handedly brilliantly has brought Portuguese language literature to English readers Five men gather in the 1980s in a bar They served together in Mozambiue around 1970 fighting in one of Salazarist Portugal's colonial wars The novel covers their return to Lisbon the resumption or crumbling of their previous lives and then the onset of the bloodless Portuguese revolution of April 25 1974 One man never speaks but we feel his presence There's a soldier become a furniture mover for his uncle's tottering business There's a second lieutenant from a humble background married into a rich family who flee to Brazil when the Revolution occurs Third is a lieutenant colonel whose wife dies just as he returns from Africa and who takes up with a cloud of perfume in silver high heels and oyster colored eyelids Fourth is a communications officer also referred to as Lieutenant which caused me no end of confusion at first an underground Communist agitator jailed for his pains before being freed after April 25th What happens to the men during that confused period in Portugal's history and then when things settle down is the subject of the rest of the book There's a lot of their sex life a murder and a denouement Set down like that the `plot' of FADO ALEXANDRINO doesn't amount to much No you'll read this because you want to read a highly unusual work of art one that weaves stories the gritty side of Lisbon times voices dreams thoughts imaginations and moments together like a collage like a Pollock painting like a tapestry Lobo Antunes changes direction on pages in paragraphs and even in sentences some of which are extremely long He draws a detailed picture of Portuguese society seen from the bottom up; no touristy views for him You can't just skim along; you have to pay close attention Let's face it Either you're going to be blown away by this incredible book or you're going to toss it after the first 20 pages Not an easy read I found myself struggling to distinguish the characters locations and times because much of the narrative is stream of consciousness and not everyone is given a name However the language is so evocative and uite extraordinarily well translated that I was moved and thrilled with sensations created by a large number of passages throughout the book This is a book I will mark down to read again as I am sure that with re reading the plot and characters will become clearer and the smells and sounds will remain just as strong Second read As is my habit I shall not attempt to summarize the story just my take on what it is about A brilliant novel by Portuguese author António Lobo Antunes Fado Alexandrino is an alcohol fuelled crawl through Portugal’s colonial wars the Carnation Revolution and the post revolution period all portrayed in their hideous glory As with all of his novels the author takes his readers into a world of violence sex drunkenness hatred and love Simultaneously he has created a work of genius in which the conscientious reader can discern the pain and the confusion in the stories of each of the central characters Most importantly he has left this reader at least in a story filled with deprivation disgust and humour with a deeply felt sense of empathy with the human condition At the end of the book I found myself wondering if given the circumstances of each of their lives I would have been able to overcome a similar fate a fate which on the surface seems to be so easily avoidable As with all of us each character wants to be understood wants to understand wants to simply live what? the good life? Don’t we all?This is the story of five men who gather to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their return from the war of counter insurgency in the then colony of Mozambiue They are the soldier the communications officer the second lieutenant the captain and the lieutenant colonel During the long night of talking drinking and whoring each relates often in painful detail the circumstances of his life Only four of the characters are speaking The fifth is generally the one being addressed Often they are speaking over each other not paying much attention to what the others are saying Often they are confused bewildered distressed by another’s story Typical human communication But I shall leave it those of you who decide to read the book to discern the story Keep in mind that António Lobo Antunes wants to portray people as they actually feel and behave so it is not always easy to sort the characters out Also as the characters speak events do not always unfold chronologically Also note that the book is divided into three sections each with four chapters Thus each character is given three chapters to tell his story in each section but it’s not always that simple If you take on this wonderful challenge I would suggest that you make a list of the four characters then write down the various names they are given throughout along with the events and the women in their lives You may also wish to list the names of the women as they come up and be on the lookout for those known by different names This is probably not at all necessary for those not addled by old age as I amDo read it It is a very human even touching story with lots of heartfelt humour António Lobo Antunes does a wonderful job of putting us in touch with our inner humanity Really The novel is about five Portuguese soldiers returning from the civil war which took place in Angola in the 70’s As they sit around a table all five discuss the madness of war and eventually commit an murder which affects the town they live in as well and works as a sort of wake up callFado Alexandrino displays war in all its cartoon insanity there are passages stuffed with sex violence and corruption crossed with complex emotions and anecdotes The author himself was part of this conflict so I’m sure the novel is autobiographicalMy problem is that I found it dragging Passage upon passage of detail which I found superfluous sure the novel is written in the fado style twelve chapters of 26 verses if i’m not mistaken but I found it a tough slog many times

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