The return of the Caravels by Antonio lobo Antunes

 

The Return of the Caravels by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Portuguese fiction

Original title – As Naus

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

There is a name that has for most of the time I have been blogging that has been on the list of potential Nobel winner Antonio Lobo Antunes is always on the list of potential winners. The former doctor served in the Portuguese army in a number of conflicts in the 60s and 70s they feature in a number of his book they have been in the two books I have previously read from Him. Here also there is a feel of the aftermath of those conflicts. He has written a bi-weekly column for a Newspaper he has written over twenty novels he is influenced by William Faulkner in his style which is dense and modernist.

He’d passed through Lixbon eighteen or twenty years earlier on the way to Angloa and what he remembered best were his parents rooms in the boarding house on Conde redondo where they were staying in the midst of a clatter of pots and womans exsoerated grumbling. He recalled the communal bathroom, a washbasn with a set of baroque faucets inimtation of fish that vomited out sobs of brownish water through there open gils, and the time he came upon a man on in years smiling on the the toilets with his pants down around his knees . At night the window would be open and he’d see the illuminated Chinese restuarents, the sleepwalking glaciers of electrical appliances stores in the shadows, and blond heads of hair above the paving stones of the sidewalks.

The opening lines show how the past and opresent mix together.

Inside the Jeronimos Monastery In Lisbon, there is the copper insignia that were on the ships from Portugal those Caracvels those ships the Portuguese used when they conquered their empire. Well, this book mixes those figures famous for the discovery and conquering those lands have returned to a mix of Modern well it is the mid-seventies after the falling apart of the Salazar regime and the decision to leave their empire so when figures like Vasco  De Gama the king, smaller figures like Luis as they all return and see what has happened the journey of their empire has gone full circle as the past and present crash and the figures of the past drift into the present as they see what has happened over the past three hundred years of history as the fate of their empire and its downfall is shown in full color this isn’t a plot-driven book it is more a revision and view of the past and present at once it is about the Portuguese empire and its downfall. the darker side of all is shown like in his other works he doesn’t hold back.

When Vasco da Gama arrived in Vila franca de Xira by van, with the poker deck in his pocket, ain=ming to find work at the cobbler’s trade, instead of the trees and houses and streets he’d remembered at night in Africa with meticulous precision of longing, he found a land that had extended beyond the rooftops and the pagoda of the bandstand submerged in the vast spread of the halted waters of the Tagus, drowning farms,cows and walls abd driven by November rains. Famlies clinging to the tops of poplar trees saw passing by, adrift in the whirlpools of mud, the bloated bodies of bereaus mules and dogs, double basses lost their clefs forever, woman with their figers motionless in sewing gestures, and their mugs thatr said souvenir of Loule.

Vasco De Gama one of those figures to return to the present

This is a tough book about a tough period in his countries history. What he does is mix those great names of the past and the underbelly of what has happened since. It looks at what the likes of Da Gama Legacy mean for them. Style-wise this is a book that owes a lot to the writers he likes Faulkner springs to mind it is a work about thoughts and ideas more than a plot about the legacy good and bad about the Portuguese empire with warts and all that has happened there are little side stories like Luis who comes to Lisbon on a ship and his father’s coffin. The mix of past and present in the world that sees the modern and the [ast as one is an interesting insight into the heart of the Portugal of the time. It is like a mixtape of Portuguese history with rifts on top of rifts as he samples the past and presents working them in together to produce something unique a seem less mixing of both that has been beautifully translated by Gregory Rabassa who for me has always been one of the best translators around.

Winstons score – + A stunning like a rich dessert it is intense and full of flavors of Portuguese history!!

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