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The Fat Man and Infinity: And Other Writings…
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The Fat Man and Infinity: And Other Writings

by António Lobo Antunes

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Lobo Antunes 'The fat man and Infinity' is somewhat atypical of his output so far at least as seen in the English speaking world. The book breaks down into three parts--the first two consisting of essays and journalistic pieces and the last third of very short fictional pieces (almost all in 3 to 4 page length). Antunes novels tend to be a bit darker and at times very dense in which more often than not multiple threads weave in and out of each other and are laced with a sometimes very caustic black humor. In this book the prose is a lot clearer and the thoughts he tries to convey a lot more straightforward--the darker aspects very much lightened. A lot of his essays concerns his growing up in Lisbon and have a very nostalgic bent to them. Of course he grew up during the years of the Salazar dictatorship but mostly the essays are about the concerns of a small or a teenage boy and not so much of the adult world except as seen through the eyes of that boy. On a personal note I never knew they played much ice hockey in Portugal in the 50's but young Antonio was quite an enthusiast as he mentions playing several times. Lobo Antunes in any case does not seem to have much problem re-connecting--putting himself back in the shoes of the boy he once was. The shorter fictional pieces making up the last third of the book are mostly of heartbreak and frustration--love gone wrong or people having lost direction in their lives.

Lobo Antunes is one of my favorite writers but this book is almost like day to night when compared to some of his other work. It is a welcome break though from the edginess that I've come to expect from his usually very densely worked out novels---and his usually exasperated narrators. The Fat man and Infinity may be the most easily accessible of his works so far translated and is worthwhile reading for other fans of Lobo if for nothing else giving us insights into what drives this remarkable writer. ( )
2 vote lriley | May 27, 2009 |
Antunes (1942-) is a highly regarded Portuguese writer born to an upper-middle class family, who decided at a young age that he wanted to be a writer. His father, who was a neurologist, insisted that he attend medical school, so as to avoid a certain life of poverty as a writer. He was trained as a psychiatrist, then worked at an Angolan military hospital during the Portuguese Colonial War. He returned to Portugal in 1973, and wrote his first novel, Memória de Elefante (Elephant's Memory), in 1979.

The Fat Man and Infinity is a collection of Antunes' crónicas, short weekly or biweekly columns that he wrote for Portuguese magazines or newspapers. The writing is absolutely glorious, and the stories in the first two parts, which describe his early childhood and life as a writer, are frequently hilarious or touching, or both.

The last part of the book consists of fictional snapshots of working-class people in and around Lisbon. Many of these stories are almost unbearably sad; behind the veneer of ordinary lives lie stories of quiet desperation. People fall into and out of love; a man who sees a beautiful woman every day on the bus is tortured by his stuttering problem, and cannot bear to have the love of his life laugh at him; a woman in a restaurant begs her husband to not die there, but at home or in a hospital as decent man would. These latter crónicas were so intense and affecting that I had to stop reading them on several occasions.

This is an astonishing collection of stories, which have been, as usual, beautifully translated by Margaret Jull Costa. ( )
4 vote kidzdoc | May 4, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393061981, Hardcover)

A lyrical, searing work of autobiography, reflection, and fiction, evoking García Márquez's memoirs and Pamuk's Istanbul.

António Lobo Antunes's sole ambition from the age of seven was to be a writer. Here, in The Fat Man and Infinity, "the heir to Conrad and Faulkner" (George Steiner) reflects on the fractured paradise of his childhood—the world of prim, hypocritical, class-riven Lisbon in midcentury. His Proust-like memoirs, written over thirty years in chronicle form, pass through the filter of an adult who has known war and pain, and bear witness to the people whom he loved and who have gone into the dark. Stunningly translated by Margaret Jull Costa, in prose that glides like poetry, this is a modern-day chronicle of Portugal's imperfect past and arresting present, seen through the eyes of a master fiction writer, one on a short list to win a Nobel Prize. Readers particularly touched by Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes will be drawn to this journey into the heart of one of our greatest living writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:11 -0400)

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