Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel by Pascal Mercier | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Night Train to Lisbon
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Night Train to Lisbon

3.6 23
by Pascal Mercier
     
 

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Raimund Gregorius teaches classical languages at a Swiss lycée, and lives a life governed by routine. One day, a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman inspires him to question his life—and leads him to an extraordinary book that will open the possibility of changing it. Inspired by the words of Amadeu de Prado, a doctor whose intelligence and

Overview


Raimund Gregorius teaches classical languages at a Swiss lycée, and lives a life governed by routine. One day, a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman inspires him to question his life—and leads him to an extraordinary book that will open the possibility of changing it. Inspired by the words of Amadeu de Prado, a doctor whose intelligence and magnetism left a mark on everyone who met him and whose principles led him into a confrontation with Salazar’s dictatorship, Gergorius boards a train to Lisbon. As Gregorius becomes fascinated with unlocking the mystery of who Prado was, an extraordinary tale unfolds.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“One of the most thoughtful and entertaining novels to come out of Europe in a decade . . . a smart, heartfelt, thoroughly enjoyable book written for thinking adults, and the most recent incarnation, from Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf right down to Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, of that potent, ever-popular myth—the book that changes your life. . . . Go ahead and buy this one—believe me, you'll want to read it more than once.”—Nick Dimartino, Shelf Awareness

“One reads this book almost breathlessly, can’t put it down . . . A handbook for the soul, intellect and heart.”—Die Welt (Germany)

“A treat for the mind. One of the best books I have read in a long time.” –Isabel Allende

“This beautiful book…lit like a fuse that snaked its way into my consciousness, sending out sparklers of light that made me feel more alive, more awake, for days. I hated to see it come to an end. What more can one ask?” –Maya Muir, The Oregonian

“A book so intent on answering the larger questions of existence that if readers give it a chance, it could be life-altering. A brilliant book that manages to excite the mind and the heart in equal measure.” —Betsy Burton, The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

“Challenges the reader, both intellectually and philosophically. . . . I was hooked—I read the book in no more than two sittings.” —Bruce Tierney, BookPage

“Might call to mind the magical realism of Jorge Amado or Gabriel Garcia Marquez . . . allusive and thought-provoking, intellectually curious and yet heartbreakingly jaded. . . . Its lyricism and aura of the mysterious only enhance the tale’s clear-sighted confrontation with the enduring questions.” —Tony Lewis, The Providence Journal

“Rich, dense, star-spangled . . . The novels of Robert Stone come to mind, and Elias Canetti’s Auto-da-Fe, and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, and Kobo Abe’s The Ruined Map, not to mention Marcus Aurelius and Wittgenstein. . . [but] what Night Train to Lisbon really suggests is Roads to Freedom, Jean-Paul Sartre’s breathless trilogy about identity-making.” —John Leonard, Harper’s Magazine

“Celebrates the beauty and allure of language . . . adroitly addresses concepts of sacrifice, secrets, memory, loneliness, infatuation, tyranny, and translation. It highlights how little we know about others.” —Tony Miksanek, Chicago Sun-Times

“The text of Amadeu’s writing is filled not with mere nuggets of wisdom but with a mother lode of insight, introspection, and an honest, self-conscious person’s illuminations of all the dark corners of his own soul. . . . Mercier has captured a time in history—one of time times—when men must take a stand.” —Valerie Ryan, The Seattle Times

“Dreamlike . . . A meditative, deliberate exploration of loneliness, language and the human condition . . . The reader is transported and, like Gregorius, better for having taken the journey.” —Debra Ginsberg, The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Readers will be rewarded . . . by the involving, unpredictable, and well-constructed plot and Mercier’s virtuosic orchestration of a large and memorable cast of characters. As the stories of Gregorius and de Prado draw together, this becomes a moving meditation on the defining moments in our lives, the ‘silent explosions that change everything.” —Forest Turner, Library Journal

“The age-old intellectual’s dilemma, considered in a compelling blend of suspenseful narrative and discursive commentary . . . an intriguing fiction.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A meditative novel that builds an uncanny power through a labyrinth of memories and philosophical concepts that illuminate the narrative from within. . . . a remarkable immediacy that makes for a rare reading pleasure.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“The artful unspooling of Prado’s fraught life is richly detailed: full of surprises and paradoxes, it incorporates a vivid rendering of the Portuguese resistance to Salazar . . . . comes through on the enigmas of trying to live and write under fascism.” —Publishers Weekly

“One of the great European novels of the past few years.” —Page des libraires (France)

“A book of astonishing richness . . . a visionary writer . . . a deserved international smash.” —Le Canard enchaîné (France)

“The stuff of fine fiction . . . has the coloration and feel of Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams or Peter Handke’s Crossing the Sierra de Gredos.” —The Morning News

“This novel taps into some of the oldest veins of story, the primal ones of night journeys, of being stuck in place, yet adrift, and confused about life's purpose. It is full of people who have lived, even as the fullness of that is revealed only in the protagonist's drawing out of their stories. I'm not sure how much this book might teach us how to live, but it has reminded me of what it is to really read.” —Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA, Book Sense quote

“As mesmerizing and dreamlike as a Wong Kar-wai film, with characters as strange and alienated as any of the filmmaker’s . . . Mercier . . . is a master at mixing ideas and plot. . . . Prado’s ruminative autobiography [is] reminiscent of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations or Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. . . . unforgettable moments of crystalline, even poetic, insight.” —Bookforum

“A sensation. The best book of the last ten years . . . A novel of incredible clarity and beauty.” —Bücher (Germany)

“Powerful, serious, and brilliant . . . constitutes one of the true revelations of this season.” —L’Humanité (France)

“Impressive . . . a life lesson and a model of lucidity.” —La Quinzaine (France)

“Mercier draws together all the big existential questions in this masterful novel. . . . visionary.” —Volkskrant (Netherlands)

“Mercier has erected a monument to literature. And he has done it wonderfully, with the full weight of his philosophical knowledge.” —La Stampa (Italy)

“Absolutely recommended.” —De Telegraaf (Netherlands)

“A novel for people with great expectations for literature . . . written with brilliance, incomparable talent and obvious artistic power, and a wide knowledge of the human nature, mind, and soul.” —Berlingske Tidende (Denmark)

“Taps into some of the oldest veins of story, the primal ones of night journeys, of a distant land, of being stuck in-place, and yet adrift . . . Pascal Mercier does all of this and more, masterfully, alertly, intelligently. . . . I’m not sure how much this book might teach any of us how to live—that’s for anyone to decide—but it has helped remind this reader of what it is to really read.”—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company“Contains style, narrative richness and philosophy . . . I read it in three nights. Then I was convinced to change my life.” —Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany)

“A serious and beautiful book about the examined life.” —Le Monde (France)

“Mercier has founded a new artistic tradition in the novel.” —La Quinzaine littéraire (France)

“A book in which poetry and philosophy are intimately intertwined.” —Tages-Anzeiger (Switzerland)

“Both philosophical and spell-binding . . . a novel to absorb . . . One and a half million German readers can’t be wrong: Philosophy can go to the heart!” —Politiken (Denmark)

“An existentialist novel with a post-modern view of the self, a well-researched taste of the magical city Lisbon, but also a searching picture of an unusual and rarely described protagonist’s life in it’s most appalling and life-affirming phase.” —Nordjyske Stiftstidende (Denmark)

“Exceptional . . . a thriller of a philosophical novel. You cheat yourself by not bringing this book with you for the holiday.” —Weekendavisen (Denmark)

“Beautiful . . . An elegant narrative of the exploration of one human being by another. . . . throw[s] as much light as it seems possible on the inexhaustible question: What does it mean to be a human being, and to what extent can we know each other—and ourselves?” —Børsen (Denmark)

“You are not the same person you were before you started reading. This is very likely the biggest compliment you can give a novel—and this book deserves it.” —Kristeligt Dagblad (Denmark)

“An intense novel, an initiation into the interior life for refined palates.” —La Repubblica (Italy)

Library Journal

Raimund Gregorius, a Swiss professor of classical languages, is crossing a rainy bridge in Bern when a mysterious woman writes a phone number on his forehead and utters a single word in Portuguese. Later that day, he wanders into a bookstore and finds himself drawn to a Portuguese book titled A Goldsmith of Words, self-published in Lisbon 30 years earlier. These unexplained and seemingly unrelated events conspire to tear myopic bookworm Gregorius out of his solitary and unvarying existence and send him to Lisbon in search of both the woman and Amadeu de Prado, the book's (fictional) author. This third novel by the pseudonymous Mercier caused a sensation in Europe and spent 140 weeks on the German best-sellers lists, feats unlikely to be duplicated in the United States because of the book's slow pacing. Patient readers will be rewarded, however, by the involving, unpredictable, and well-constructed plot and Mercier's virtuosic orchestration of a large and memorable cast of characters. As the stories of Gregorius and de Prado draw together, this becomes a moving meditation on the defining moments in our lives, the "silent explosions that change everything." Recommended for all fiction collections.
—Forest Turner

Kirkus Reviews
An elegant meditative book teaches a painfully ironic life lesson in German-Swiss author Mercier's searching 2004 novel, a critically acclaimed international bestseller being published in the United States for the first time. He who learns the lesson is 50ish Raimund Gregorius, a philologist who teaches Latin, Greek and Hebrew at a Swiss high school-until an unknown woman excites the scholar's interest in an obscure book of philosophical observations penned by an equally unknown Portuguese author. Impulsively abandoning his academic responsibilities, Gregorius acquires the rare volume, ponders its contents and travels to Lisbon to research the life of its "vanished" author. He discovers that Amadeu de Prado, a would-be priest who became a renowned physician, had led an even more complex life as a member of the resistance movement opposing Portugal's notorious dictator Antonio Salazar. The story emerges from Gregorius's meetings: with Prado's aged sister Adriana, the stoical though not uncritical preserver of his memory; a contemplative priest with whom the nonbelieving doctor had often debated theology; the brilliant and beautiful colleague Estefania, who may have been Prado's true soul mate; and the Resistance comrade V'tor Coutinho, who discloses the "evil" act (saving the life of a vicious secret police official) that motivated Prado to forsake the life of the mind for that of a man of violent action. The nearer Gregorius comes to the truth of Prado's passionate commitment, the more insistent becomes the question he asks himself: "Had he perhaps missed a possible life, one he could easily have lived with his abilities and knowledge?" It's the age-old intellectual's dilemma, consideredin a compelling blend of suspenseful narrative and discursive commentary (quoted from Prado's text). An intriguing fiction only occasionally diluted by redundancy and by Mercier's overuse of the metaphor of a train journey. Agent: Friederike Barakat/Carl Hanser Verlag

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802143976
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
10/15/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
287,312
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

A professor of philosophy, Pascal Mercier was born in 1944 in Bern, Switzerland, and currently lives in Berlin.

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