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Knowledge of Hell Paperback – March 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564784363
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564784360
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,280,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The narrator of this stark and elegantly translated novel is a psychiatrist named António Lobo Antunes, returning from vacation to his loathed job at Miguel Bombarda Hospital in Lisbon. Over the course of the trip, the narrator's mind ranges over the monstrosities he encountered in the colonial wars in Angola in the 1970s and in his work; through the layering of memories, he draws parallels between the destruction of the war and the questionable care offered to the mentally ill. The novel is both stylistically and emotionally demanding: the point of view shifts back and forth from first- to third-person as the narrative develops in a plotless associative collage, including a hallucinatory episode in which hospital employees gleefully consume the corpse of a soldier. The novel has a heavy autobiographical element and presents a bleak vision of humanity, except in the narrator's tender appeals to Joanna, his daughter, to whom much of the novel is addressed. In this early work (first published in Portugal in 1983), Antunes transforms rage into gorgeous, lyrical language. (Mar.)
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demonstrates Lobo Antunes's impressive techniques for upsetting boundaries between past and present, reality and phantasm' -Alan Gilbert, The Village Voice

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Byrd on August 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
In 'Knowledge of Hell', a narrator who shares the name and biography of author António Lobo Antunes leaves the vacation town of Quinta da Balaia and drives through the Portuguese countryside toward Lisbon, to return to his duties as a psychiatrist at Miguel Bombarda mental hospital. Along the way, the author strives to peel away the façade of his character, to report his scattered thoughts, memories, fantasies and fears concerning his work, while describing the surrounding countryside in terms both nightmarish and threatening. Though this character, like Antunes, was also involved in the cruel Portuguese Colonial War in Angola, and knew up-close the barbaric realities of conflict, it wasn't until his tenure began at Miguel Bombarda that he truly gained a knowledge of Hell.

This was my first experience with Antunes' work, and, stylistically, it is the most difficult prose I've ever read. Here the author switches points of view abruptly - sometimes mid-sentence - and inserts dreams and fantasies into the narrative without alerting the reader in any way. He projects his paranoia and insecurities onto partial memories, desires, and absurd imaginary confrontations. Sometimes he records dream-like episodes, where he is suddenly mistaken for a patient and locked away in the asylum, or he inhabits the unknowable final conversations of a suicide, but presents them all in the same unreal tempo as those thoughts that I had credited as rational. To further complicate, he piles simile on top of simile, modifying one with another, and perhaps even another, as the sentence winds through clause after clause until I'm forced to go back and hunt for the original subject.
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