An Explanation of the Birds
978-0-8021-3420-2 • $11.00 • Paperback • Sep. 1995
“One of these days I’ll beach right here, devoured by fish
like a dead whale,” muses Rui S., portly thirty-three-year-old political
historian and hero of the latest dazzling novel by António Lobo Antunes. Little
do we or Rui S. realize how prophetic his whiny lamentation proves to be until
the close of this beautifully realized masterpiece of remembrance.
Unable to accept the facts of his life—his mother’s imminent
death by cancer; his estrangement from his bourgeois family, especially his
industrialist father; and his blunt rejection by his first wife and two
children—Rui S. decides to change things.
Now married to the nagging, dogmatic Communist Marilia, Rui
S. puts together a weak-kneed agenda for change: he decides to skip yet another
dull and pompous academic conference, escape to a resort town north of Lisbon,
and there dump his homely wife. Marilia, however, beats him to the punch,
announcing that she wants out of the marriage before he can summon the courage
to speak. Returning again and again to the only memory he has of being
loved—walking with his father as a young boy and listening to him explain the
behavior of birds—Rui S. tries in vain to make sense of himself.
In An Explanation of the Birds, Lobo Antunes has once
again proved himself a master of the surreal, creating both a circus-like dream
and a mournful eulogy for the lost ideals of post-revolutionary Lisbon.