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António Lobo Antunes: Auto dos Danados (Act of the Damned)

Antunes was clearly no supporter of the Portuguese military government and the well-to-do families that kept it in power and this is his spit in their face, as he chronicles the desperate, pathetic and tawdry efforts of one family to escape Portugal after the Portuguese revolution. We see the story from the points of view of the different family members and none of them can be said to be a model citizen. They are cheating on their spouses, trying to steal from the patriarch of the family (who has long since frittered away all the family money) and generally attacking and blaming one another. Of course, they all have a past, be it financial or sexual criminality (including incest), which all adds to the fun. Antunes has a wonderful time, painting the portrait of a crumbling caste, with wit, sarcasm and plain, good old-fashioned invective. You don’t need a knowledge of Portuguese history to appreciate the viciousness of his attack on a fading, minor aristocracy.

Publishing history

First published 1985 by Editora Dom Quixote
First English translation 1993 by Secker & Warburg