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The Natural Order of Things Paperback – June 9, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: Antunes, Antonio Lobo
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (June 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802138136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802138132
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,033,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Using the poetic resources of language, and hinging his plot less on everyday logic than on a dreamlike progression from character to metaphor to history, Antunes's fantastically complex and compressed novel illumines Portugal's crime-studded history in this century. An unnamed 50ish clerk in the National Tourism office falls in love with Yolanda, a diabetic teenager living with her crazy father, Domingos Oliveira, and her aunt, Dona Orquidea, in Hyacinth Park, a working-class district of Lisbon. Yolanda is scornful of the clerk, but allows him to sleep with her. A writer (perhaps of the novel) hires an ex-secret policeman, Ernesto Portas, to find out anything he can about the man, and the information Portas collects becomes part of the narrative. Ever since the oppressive regime established by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was overthrown in the mid-'70s, Portas has supported himself by running a correspondence course in hypnotism. His fantasy--that his hypnotic technique allows people to fly--matches Oliveira's fantasy, which is about flying underground in long dark mine shafts. Oliveira once worked in the mines in South Africa, and Yolanda was born in Mozambique. Her mother remains there still, in an insane asylum. The unnamed clerk is less certain about his past. His mother, Julieta, was locked up in the attic of the family house because she was a bastard, as is the clerk. His uncle Jorge Valadas was a military conspirator against the Salazar government. Episodes of Valadas's imprisonment and torture dominate the middle section of the novel. In the end, the unnamed clerk disappears, flying away like one of Portas's hypnosis students. The novel progresses through a series of monologues by the principal characters, mixing fantasy and fact in lyrical, impressionistic prose. It powerfully demonstrates the distortions inflicted upon history by secrecy and repression when, as in the Portugal of the '50s, brutality is sovereign. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Antunes (b. 1942), who was trained as a psychiatrist and who spent four years in the Portuguese army during the Angolan War, characteristically interprets the stagnation of modern Portugual. His themes are reminiscent of Faulkner's and C?line's, and his style is as complex as Proust's. This novel, originally published in 1992, is a layered composite of several individuals and the secrets that bind them. First, there is the middle-aged man who lost his security job doing stakeouts and wiretapping once Portugal switched to democracy. He is shacked up with a diabetic girl young enough to be his granddaughter whom he loves madly while she fantasizes about younger men on motorbikes who will whisk her away from him. Their story is intertwined with that of an elderly man, once a miner in South Africa, who dreams pathetically of "flying underground," and that of an army officer, haunted by memories of prison torture, and his illegitimate sister, locked away like Rochester's wife in Jane Eyre. The work, a veritable assault on the past, manages to soar above the trivial toward allegorical relevance. Recommended.
-Jack Shreve, Allegany Coll. of Maryland, Cumberland
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By endopsa@sensewave.com on January 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is Antunes' second book in his so-called "Benfica trilogy". It is a strange and haunting story about a family and their surroundings during three generations, and Antunes tells us about their inner lives and their deepest feelings. Despite the surreal and tragic settings of his characters, the author manages to convey a genuine feeling of compassion in his story (or rather, stories). This is truly a tragedy in a dark landscape. But it is all so beautifully told! A wonderful book it is, and I recommend it to all book lovers who are willing to put in an effort. I believe this is one of this century's great books. It may seem confusing at times - Antunes uses parallel monologues and stories throughout the book - but it all adds up, as they say. Read it, and you'll see - it really is strange to be so happy after reading such a sad story!
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on April 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In The Natural Order Of Things, Antonio Lobo Antunes tells the story of two families and the secrets that inextricably bind them. The finely tuned, vividly articulate voices and memories of his characters present a dreamlike reality that resonates in the mind and imagination of the reader: an army officer tortured in prison on charges of conspiracy; an elderly man, once a miner in Mozambique, now reduced to dreams of "flying underground"; a diabetic teenage girl and the middle-aged husband she despises. These and other elements combine to create a portrait of a disintegrating society and the history of Portugal as a family history. The Natural Order Of Things is ably translated from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Byrd on May 2, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is the second of Senhor Antunes's books that I've read (Knowledge of Hell was the first), and I found both to be difficult, and dense, yet rewarding as well. Actually, rewarding may not be accurate - the best one may hope for at the end of an Antunes novel is the weight of melancholy, at the worst it may be outright bleak hopelessness. Here's a spoiler: Everyone who populates an Antunes novel will eventually die and in the process of dying will be haunted by both the good and the evil they have experienced in their lives - and will be plagued by longing, regret, and unfulfilled desires. The implication is that you and I, the readers, will also eventually die, and will be haunted by the good and evil we have experienced in our lives, plagued by longing, regret, and unfulfilled desires. Along the way, the author will construct stunningly pointed portraits of families and love and culture and Portugal and of the total fabric of life.

Antunes will not impart this message in easy, clearly delineated prose, or in any sort of traditional method. It is not simply stream-of-consciousness, but stream-of-consciousness coupled with surreal images and magical realism, disjointed time structures, unreliable narrators, and page length sentences where conversations separated by decades may sometimes be conjoined, alternating between commas. One needs a certain amount of faith to stick with an Antunes novel - faith that things will become clearer if one keeps reading.

I think each reader must decide for themselves if this sort of complex style serves any purpose other than self-indulgence on the part of the author.
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