Knowledge of Hell

Cover image of Knowledge of Hell by António Lobo Antunesby António Lobo Antunes
Translator: Clifford E. Landers
Portugal. 1980. 298 pages.

For the Washington, DC group
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 Antunes on a journey both real and phantasmagorical as he travels by car from a vacation in the Algarve back to his hated work as a psychiatrist at a Lisbon mental institution. 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.

About the author

António Lobo AntunesAntónio Lobo Antunes, GCSE, MD (born 1 September 1942) is a Portuguese novelist and medical doctor. He was born in Lisbon as the eldest of six sons. At the age of seven he decided to be a writer, but when he was 16 his father sent him to the medical school of the University of Lisbon. He graduated as a medical doctor, later specializing in psychiatry. During this time he never stopped writing.

Lobo Antunes had to serve with the Portuguese Army to take part in the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974). In a military hospital in Angola, he became interested in the subjects of death and the other. Due to the success of his first novel, Lobo Antunes decided to devote his evenings to writing, practicing psychiatry as well, mainly at the outpatients’ unit at the Hospital Miguel Bombarda of Lisbon.

Lobo Antunes has been awarded the Prize of Portuguese Writers’ Association (1985 and 1999), the France Culture Prize (1996 and 1997), the Rosalía de Castro Prize (1999), the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2000), the Ovid Prize, the Latin Union International Prize (2003), the Jerusalem Prize (2005), the Camões Prize (2007), the Juan Rulfo Premio de Literatura en Lengua Romances (2008), and the France Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2008). (Text credit: Wikipedia; image credit: oribatejo)

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