A novel of dark, often bitter, humor and remembrance from Portuguese writer Antunes (Fado Alexandrino, 1990), whose hapless hero here represents all that's wrong with post-revolutionary Lisbon. Between a Thursday and a Sunday, Rui S.—a 33-year-old political historian and the son of a leading industrialist who has rebelled against his bourgeois family—recalls his unhappy past and anticipates a different future. Nothing has ever gone right for poor Rui. A failure in high school, expelled by the Communist Party for being too bourgeois, deserted by his first wife, and ignored by his second (a hard-line Communist and genuine member of the proletariat), Rui has only one happy memory to sustain him—talking about birds as a child with his father. And now that his mother is dying—while his philandering father is traveling as usual—Rui decides that he must somehow change his life, beginning with the upcoming weekend when he and his wife are away at a conference. At an appropriate moment he will tell her that he is going to leave her. Instead, the two end up at a run-down inn on the coast where the beach is home to hundreds of gulls—which, in turn, remind Rui of his one happy moment. Then, when his wife announces first that she's leaving him, Rui has no alternative but to do what he's already imagined. Surrounded by circling sea gulls, Rui ends his life—his one successful accomplishment. Antunes evokes a corrupt and dying world, infused with yearning for lost innocence, where even the food and weather are foul and where only suicide, however melodramatic, makes sense. A remarkable combination of angry satire and elegiac tenderness.
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