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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.