João Lobo Antunes
“Almost thirty years ago, a North-American Neurology master, Melvin Yahr, simply told me – ‘Come with me to New York’; I did not hesitate and, like an apostle, I left everything and followed him, but before leaving, like other chosen of my time, I applied for a Fulbright grant.
That meant becoming acquainted with Mrs. Asta Alcaide, widow of the most well known Portuguese tenor, whose distinct elegance will be always in my mind, and the filling of endless forms, paradigmatic of the American bureaucracy, that still today when approaching Kennedy’s airport, intimidates me. This is because I have, since then, the uncomfortable felling that the smallest mistake can lead you to prison!
I got the grant and became a “fulbright” that distinguished me, I learned there, from the “halfbright”. From all this I keep a grateful memory because in a way it equated to a seal of quality, and more than that, to the first proof of generosity from a country that always treated with special care, those that went there looking for other knowledge, other experiences or other culture. My recognizing debt to the American nation, that I will never be able to pay, was born with the Fulbright Program.
Curiously, I was one of the rare exceptions to the rule that mandated the return to the country after completion of the grant. I thought that, in June 1974, an “Americanized” would not have an easy life in Portugal. So I stayed another 10 years in the United States, returning only in 1984.
The seed ended up giving its fruit in the country from where I had left, and again, the will of this wonderful program’s founders was accomplished.”
Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University, AY 1970/1971