War, we all know, is hell, but the peace for the four veterans of noted Portuguese novelist Antunes' latest (South of...



War, we all know, is hell, but the peace for the four veterans of noted Portuguese novelist Antunes' latest (South of Nowhere, 1983) may be worse. Mozambique, where they fought, was in many ways a tropical Eden, from which they were expelled. In comparison, Lisbon, where they now live, is a city of infinite corruptions, disappointments, and squalor. Four members of the same battalion meet at a restaurant to commemorate the tenth anniversary of their return to Lisbon. As they eat and drink, each one reports what he's been doing in the intervening years. The Lieutenant-Colonel, whose first wife died while he was in Mozambique, has married again--but not happily--and his career has advanced despite his rather ambiguous support of the revolution that ended the dictatorship of Salazar. The second lieutenant has also married--a woman from a wealthy family, all of whom fled to Brazil when the revolution began but returned when the status quo was restored. The third soldier, the Communications officer, is a Communist who stayed on in the military so that he could work for the Party while in Lisbon; he's in love with a dedicated Marxist, Dalia. An ordinary soldier, easygoing and with quick sympathies, who works for his uncle and is in love with the uncle's stepdaughter, is the fourth member of the group. As the evening progresses, they move on to a nightclub. The narratives--frequently interrupted by interjections and flashbacks--continue, but there are surprises--each man reveals a betrayal or failure. Their lives turn out to be as sordid and corrupt as the crumbling old city they live in. A relentless account of depravity and debauchery in a setting equally rank and gross--sewers, drains, men and women are all noisome. Antunes skillfully weaves the tangle of stories and memories, but the unremitting nastiness of what he describes is ultimately too much--it is numbing.

Pub Date: May 1, 1990

ISBN: 0802134211

Page Count: -

Publisher: Grove Weidenfeld

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1990