reading antunes


Almost all of Antunes’s books revolve around the Portuguese Colonial War—a crucial bit of Portuguese history that is little-known to Americans. Admittedly, this is one of the challenges of reading an Antunes book—a fate he shares with plenty of international authors—but I’d say that Antunes in particular deals with an obscure point of history. He benefits quite a bit from the omnipresence of smartphones capable of looking up cities, revolutionary groups, events. To paint broadly for a moment, the basic background to all of Antunes’s novels is this: “Prime Minister” Salazar has been in control of Portugal for some three decades, right up until Portugal’s colonies—namely Angola and Mozambique—rise up and fight for independence. Salazar—like every dictator and Republican president known to man—benefitted the wealthy and sent the lower-middle classes to fight in his war. He benefitted from being not quite as bad as neighboring Franco, but his secret police kept the people in check until he was overthrown in 1974, in the middle of the Colonial War. So you have people like Antunes stationed in Africa, trying to repress the natives on behalf of a dictator that only the wealthiest strata of society believed in, and who is suddenly deposed in the Carnation Revolution, a fairly bloodless uprising. At this point the war-broken soldiers come home to a country that’s moved on, that doesn’t really accept them back into the fold, so to speak.

more from Chad Post at The Quarterly Conversation here.