Nome de Guerra by José de Almada Negreiros

Rating: *** (3 out of 5)

Review: This is a novel that chronicles the journey of a country man, Antunes, from a wealthy family, when he is taken to Lisbon at the bidding of his uncle, a powerful man in their village, so he can be initiated in “being a man”. D. Jorge, his uncle’s friend who has the task of taking him into a nightclub and thrust him into the arms of a woman, sees his hopes thwarted after watching Antunes do nothing when with a naked woman in his arms, and gives up on him. However, this episode sets into motion a transformation in Antunes’ life, as he decides to go after the woman, “war name” Judite, that circumstances had forced into his life.

I liked the writing and the story, the insights that were interwoven into the narrative, and the evocative descriptions. However, I had the same problem which I seem to have with every Portuguese classic I read: they always seem to focus on protagonists who don’t really have anything bad going on, and yet they can’t see their life as anything other than meaningless, and just have to contemplate the futility of it all in near inaction, hoping that in the end they will find themselves.

Annoying characters notwithstanding, there was a hint of redemption and true growth here, and overall, I liked the book.

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3 thoughts on “Nome de Guerra by José de Almada Negreiros

  1. After reading your review I was left with a question, why did you rate it with only 3/5? It seems it was because you couldn’t see yourself through the main character, but that’s hardly something that would diminish the quality of a book, mainly when you are reading anything by Almada Negreiros, where protagonists such as the one you described are to be expected. I am willing to give this book a try, seeing I haven’t read Portuguese classics for a while. Would you recommend it?

    • 3 out of 5 means “I liked it” in Goodreads ratings. And I did like it. Not seeing myself through the character had nothing to do with it (remember I loved The Unbearable Lightness of Being?), it’s more that after a great start, most of the book is spent in inaction, and the characters, while realistic in many ways, seemed at times to be only shells. In the end it felt a bit pointless. Maybe that’s just me, though.

      I still recommend it and will bring it to you the next time we meet. 🙂

  2. […] pm (Site Info) (rating, reviews, stars) An exchange from last night with André regarding the last book I read made me think about the way I rate books. I usually use Goodreads guidelines for ratings, that is, […]

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