So I never set out to write a book about the war. I was very interested in the relationship between the man who speaks and the woman who listens. I was drawn to the idea that the relationship between a man and a woman can be something like a war itself, very cruel and violent. And then I realized that if I included some things about what happened in Africa, it would provide a powerful counterpoint to their story. I suppose the narrator of the book is trying to use the tales of war to seduce the woman—he believes that women are weak when it comes to these things. I was surprised by the solitude of this character, this lonely and miserable man. The book is about a very personal vision of hell.
The Paris Review talks to António Lobo Antunes about collective memory, our history of violence, and celebrity.