In his eleventh novel, Antonio Lobo Antunes, one of the great European literary masters, chronicles the decadence not just of a family but of an entire society -- a society morally and spiritually vitiated by four decades of totalitarian rule. Senhor Francisco, a once powerful state minister and a personal friend of the Portuguese dictator Salazar, is incapacitated by a stroke, and as he spends his last days in a nursing home in Lisbon, he reviews his life and his loves. His son Joao, raised by the housekeeper, grows up to be good-hearted but totally inept, so that his ruthless in-laws easily defraud him of his father's farm. The minister's illegitimate daughter, Paula, whom he had with the cook and who was raised by a childless widow in another town, is ostracized after the Revolution due to her father's position in Salazar's regime. The emotional turmoil enveloping Francisco's family finally catches up with him when the Revolution ends the forty-two years of the dictatorship, and the old regime tumbles like a castle of cards. Senhor Francisco, more paranoid than ever, remains a large but empty shadow of his seeming omnipotence. The Inquisitors' Manual is at once an inquiry into the difficult coexistence of self-affirmation and tenderness toward others, and a powerful examination of a totalitarian sensibility.
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December 2002 : USA Hardback
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