Monday, February 23, 2009

António Lobo Antunes: The Fat Man and Infinity and Other Writings

Dwight Garner reviews António Lobo Antunes' The Fat Man and Infinity and Other Writings.

Writing last year in The Nation, Natasha Wimmer, the gifted young translator of Roberto Bolaño's major novels into English, described the rivalry between the Portuguese novelists José Saramago and António Lobo Antunes. When Saramago won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998, Ms. Wimmer wrote, "there were those who believed that the wrong writer had been chosen."

One of those people may have been Mr. Antunes. In 1998, when a reporter for The New York Times called him for a comment about Saramago's Nobel, Mr. Antunes said, "This phone doesn't work!" and cut the connection.

Mr. Saramago, born in 1922, and Mr. Antunes, born in 1942, are not easily confused on the page. Mr. Saramago's style is spare and allegorical. His best novels, like "Blindness" (1998), build like ticking cerebral thrillers. Mr. Antunes's work, on the other hand, is chaotic and jagged, in a style that can be reminiscent of Faulkner's.

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