António Lobo Antunes: Fado Alexandrino (Fado Alexandrino)
This is one of Antunes’ most difficult novels. He uses the same technique that he used in Explicaçâo dos Pássaros (An Explanation of the Birds), namely juxtaposing different voices so that it is not always clear who is speaking. In this case you have four voices and each one is telling his story in the present (ten years after the four of them served in Portugal’s colonial war in Mozambique) while, at the same time, we get episodes from their lives, before, during and after the war. This is not to say that the story is not interesting – it is. They tell about the casual cruelty of war and their technique for survival. They also talk about what they have done since – one remained in the army, the other continues to secretly work for an underground revolutionary cell, the third is a civil servant and the fourth, the common soldier, works for his uncle’s moving firm. They drink, go and out and get whores, play a game, which ends in violence but, ultimately, the conclusion seems to be the same as in Antunes’ other books – war has a profound, negative effect on people, which they carry all their lives and Portugal still has a long way to go to move away from the moral bankruptcy of the dictatorship period.
First published 1983 by Editora Dom Quixote
First English translation 1990 by Grove Weidenfeld
Translated by Gregory Rabassa