Readers of the newly translated Portuguese novel Knowledge of Hell will not be surprised to learn that its author, António Lobo Antunes, is also a practicing psychiatrist. It's difficult to name another artist who better understands the subtle ways in which memory constantly affects our conscious, in-the-present thought processes. W. G. Sebald and Marcel Proust are obvious choices, but not entirely accurate ones. At his best, Antunes can make even those madeleine-induced, temporal cross-fades of In Search of Lost Time look like choppy edits in a bad home movie. If we're to look for influences on Antunes' lush, dreamy novel, admirers of Dante's epic will want to note that the Portuguese title Conhecimento do inferno could have been literally translated as Understanding the Inferno.Read More
Knowledge of Hell follows an aging psychiatrist named -- go figure -- António Lobo Antunes as he drives home to Lisbon after a vacation in southern Portugal. During the journey, his thoughts glide back and forth between the present narration (in which he dreads going back to work) and memories of his youth (including his participation in Portugal's war with Angola). The tension of the novel grows quietly in the space between then and now.
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