Like his creator, the narrator of this novel is a psychiatrist who loathes psychiatry, a veteran of the despised 1970s colonial war waged by Portugal against Angola, a survivor of a failed marriage, and a man seeking meaning in an uncaring and venal society. The reader joins that narrator on a journey, both real and phantasmagorical, from his Algarve vacation back to Lisbon and the mental-hospital job he hates. In the course of one long day and evening, he carries on an imaginary conversation with his daughter Joanna, observes with surreal vision the bleak countryside of his nation, recalls the horrors of his involuntary role in the suppression of Angolan independence, and curses the charlatanism of contemporary psychiatric “advances” that destroy rather than heal.
Dr. António Lobo Antunes, born in 1942 in Lisbon, decided to be a writer at age 7; he’s also been a soldier, military physician, and psychiatrist, and served in Angola during the Portuguese Colonial War. In addition to his various literary prizes – including the 2000 Austrian State Prize and the 2005 Jerusalem Prize – Dr. Lobo Antunes is also a Commandeur de l’Order des Arts et des Lettres in France and a Knight of the Grand Cross in the Order of St. James of the Sword in Portugal.