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What Can I Do When Everything's On Fire?

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  131 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
The razor-thin line between reality and madness is transgressed in this Faulknerian masterpiece, António Lobo Antunes's first novel to appear in English in five years. What Can I Do When Everything's On Fire?, set in the steamy world of Lisbon's demimonde—a nightclub milieu of scorching intensity and kaleidoscopic beauty, a baleful planet populated by drag queens, clowns, ...more
ebook, 480 pages
Published September 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2001)
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Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not for the timid. I've been putting off finishing this book for fear of writing a review. It will come. I need to sleep on it.


I've slept on it. This review will be done by instalment. I'll never get it out in one coherent text.

It is a solid 4 out of 5.

So this is the story of a family living outside of Lisbon in Portugal - although there is a great deal of moving around. (I thought I knew a lot about Lisbon from reading all that Saramago. I was wrong.)

The family is made up
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dezarrezoado amor, dentro em meu peito
tem guerra com a razão. Amor, que jaz
e já de muitos dias, manda e faz
tudo o que quer, a torto e a direito.

Não espera razões, tudo é despeito,
tudo soberba e força, faz, desfaz,
sem respeito nenhum; e quando em paz
cuidais que sois, então tudo é desfeito.

Doutra parte, a razão tempos espia,
espia ocasiões de tarde em tarde,
que ajunta o tempo; em fim vem o seu dia:

Então não tem lugar certo onde aguarde
Amor; trata traições, que não confia
nem dos seus. Que farei quan
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Antonio Lobo Antunes is the other great modern novelist of Portugal, somewhat the antithesis of the Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago and his fables. Lobo Antunes is, if everything, too much of this world. "What Can I Do When Everything's On Fire", despite the irresistible title, is a tough read. Not because it is poorly written -- in fact, because the writing is so virtuosic. Like "The Sound and the Fury", this novel begins with a narrator who cannot tell a story. Unlike "The Sound and the Fury", a ...more
João Roque
Mar 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gays, narrativa
O que é necessário para que abandone a leitura de um livro?
Por assim dizer, tudo!
Que o livro não me agrade, que o não compreenda, e sobretudo, considerando-me, modéstia à parte, suficientemente inteligente e culto, que ache esse livro como impossível de ler.
Assim sucede com esta minha (infeliz) estreia com o universo literário de António Lobo Antunes - "Que farei quando tudo arde" é intragável...
Felizmente tenho aqui para ler noutra altura mais dois livros do autor para tentar modificar a muito
Jul 25, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Though parts of this novel were very lyrically beautiful, the whole concept seemed pretty pointless and I had a really difficult time getting through it, so much so that I often referred to it as "drivel" and "that dumb novel I'm still slogging through". But I finished it! So I am kind of impressed with myself. Basically, Atunes creates, say, fifteen characters and over the course of almost 600 pages switches back and forth between their first-person narratives, usually without any sort of warni ...more
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a complicated read, sometimes frustrating, but worth plowing through. Antunes disorients the reader. At its base, it is about drag queens & drug addicts and life's difficulties.

The list of characters is essential; at points they are the sole compass, other than place names, to get a bearing on the time-line, narrator and action. The main narrator, Paulo, directs the bulk of the novel, while other characters have a say throughout. It deals somewhat indirectly with the issues of dysfun
Didier Vanoverbeke
This novel of the downtrodden reads like a symphony, with many voices weaving in and out of a blurred narrative driven by a rhythmic prose style. I have seen many reviewers on this network maligning this style, though I would argue the individual chapters are short enough that the demands on your parsing faculties are not that daunting. And parse is what you wil do, as perspectives and narrators grab the reins without warning, especially in the last quarter of the novel, where the amount of pers ...more
Sep 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book killed me. The story was so-so interesting but the voice and presentation of the story was not something I didn't enjoy. After about 300 pages (i think there are 500) I quit. I didn't care about the carters or the story and felt enough was enough.
Michael sinkofcabbages
should have the Nobel by now.
What can you do when a novel drowns you in voices of the damned? That's precisely what happens with this novel. As a reader, you are trapped in the world of voices, ostensibly the voice of the main narrator, Paulo, the son of a LIsbon drag queen father and an alcoholic prostitute mother who himself is a heroin addict, but there are other voices, too. Voices of confusion, anger, hate, damage, lies, regret, etc. They endlessly repeat. They all run together. There's no way out. But it somehow works ...more
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, it was a battle, but I did finish it. Antunes's novel is more like a very long stream-of-consciousness prose poem, where the present, past, and maybe the future are all mixed together. Snippets of conversation mingle with in the innermost thoughts of a variety of characters, along with what I guess would describe as kind of mini-vignettes. Probably the most difficult book I've ever read (I tend to like at least fairly realistic fiction or fantasty-ish lit along the lines of Calvino and Bor ...more
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A challenging read, but mesmerizing! Grateful for the cast of characters in the front, which I referred to often. Hard to know who was talking/thinking/acting - a tangle of thoughts,conversations and descriptions. Kind of stream of consciousness - but not often sure whose conscious! Poetic in a way.
Nov 15, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Stream of consciousness-like writing without periods mingled with parts dialogue makes very tiring reading. Loads of characters (it is a big house) can't and don't generate interest. I quit after reading 20% of the book; saw no signs of improvement or hope.
David Swire
Much more difficult than necessary. Over 600 pages to reach the ending I saw coming.
this is amazing and not the easiest read...
Oct 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Após a leitura deste livro, há a possibilidade do leitor necessitar de ajuda psicológica. É mais fácil encontrar uma agulha no palheiro do que um momento de felicidade neste livro.
Jesse K
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
Dense, confusing, depressing, poetic, and amazing.
Stephany Joy
A thistle of poetry that took my breath away at times but I ended up drowning in. A for effort, bookclub.
rated it it was amazing
May 15, 2012
Joana Vale
rated it it was amazing
Jan 17, 2013
Nuno Cotter
rated it it was amazing
Feb 03, 2016
rated it really liked it
Apr 19, 2012
rated it liked it
Nov 20, 2017
Chris Wharton
rated it did not like it
Apr 07, 2013
Mariana Pedro
rated it it was amazing
Jul 02, 2013
Arturo Shoup
rated it it was amazing
Apr 06, 2013
Mauro Javier
rated it really liked it
Sep 15, 2011
rated it did not like it
Aug 31, 2008
Dewey Rolles
rated it it was ok
Apr 03, 2017
rated it it was amazing
Jan 12, 2009
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At the age of seven, António Lobo Antunes decided to be a writer but when he was 16, his father sent him to medical school - he is a psychiatrist. During this time he never stopped writing.
By the end of his education he had to join the Army, to take part in the war in Angola, from 1970 to 1973. It was there, in a military hospital, that he gained interest for the subjects of death and the other. T
More about António Lobo Antunes...