Night Train to Lisbon

Night Train to Lisbon


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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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802143976
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 10/15/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 142,813
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

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

Read an Excerpt


The day that ended with everything different in the life of Raimund Gregorius began like countless other days. At quarter to eight, he came from Bundesterrasse and stepped onto the Kirchenfeldbrücke leading from the heart of the city to the Gymnasium. He did that every workday of the school term always at quarter to eight. Once when the bridge was blocked, he made a mistake in beginning Greek class afterward. That had never happened before nor did it ever happen again. For days, the whole school talked of nothing but this mistake. The longer the discussion lasted, the more it was thought to be a mistake in hearing. At last, this conviction won out even among the students who had been there. It was simply inconceivable that Mundus, as everyone called him, could make a mistake in Greek, Latin or Hebrew.

Gregorius looked ahead at the pointed towers of the Historical Museum of the City of Bern, up to the Gurten and down to the Aare with its glacier green water. A gusty wind drove low-lying clouds over him, turned his umbrella inside out and whipped the rain in his face. Now he noticed the woman in the middle of the bridge. She had leaned her elbows on the railing and was reading in the pouring rain what looked like a letter. She must have been holding the sheet with both hands. As Gregorius came closer, she suddenly crumpled the paper, kneaded it into a ball and threw the ball into space with a violent movement. Instinctively, Gregorius had walked faster and was now only a few steps away from her. He saw the rage in her pale, rain-wet face. It wasn't a rage that could be dumped into words and then blow over. It was a grim rage turned inward that must have been smoldering in her for a long time. Now the woman leaned on the railing with outstretched arms, and her heels slipped out of her shoes. Now she jumps. Gregorius left the umbrella to a gust of wind that drove it over the railing, threw his briefcase full of school notebooks to the ground and uttered a string of curses that weren't part of his usual vocabulary. The briefcase opened up and the notebooks slid onto the wet pavement. The woman turned around. For a few moments, she watched unmoving as the notebooks darkened with the water. Then she pulled a felt-tipped pen from her coat pocket, took two steps, leaned down to Gregorius and wrote a line of numbers on his forehead.

"Forgive me," she said in French, breathless and with a foreign accent. "But I mustn't forget this phone number and I don't have any paper with me."

Now she looked at her hands as if she were seeing them for the first time.

"Naturally, I could have ..." And now, looking back and forth between Gregorius's forehead and her hand, she wrote the numbers on the back of the hand. "I ... I didn't want to keep it, I wanted to forget everything, but when I saw the letter fall ... I had to hold onto it."

The rain on the thick eyeglasses muddied Gregorius's sight, and he groped awkwardly for the wet notebooks. The tip of the felt pen seemed to slide over his forehead again. But then he realized it was now the fingers of the woman, who was trying to wipe away the numbers with a handkerchief.

"It is out of line, I know ..." And now she started helping Gregorius gather up the notebooks. He touched her hand and grazed her knee, and when the two of them reached for the last notebook, they bumped heads.

"Thank you very much," he said when they stood facing each other. He pointed to her head. "Did it hurt?"

Absently, looking down, she shook her head. The rain beat down on her hair and ran over her face.

"Can I walk a few steps with you?"

"Ah ... yes, of course," Gregorius stammered.

Silently they walked together to the end of the bridge and on toward the school. The sense of time told Gregorius that it was after eight and the first hour had already begun. How far was "a few steps"? The woman had adjusted to his pace and plodded along beside him as if she would go on like that all day. She had pulled the wide collar of her coat so high that, from the side, Gregorius saw only her forehead.

"I have to go in here, into the Gymnasium," he said and stood still. "I'm a teacher."

"Can I come along?" she asked softly.

Gregorius hesitated and ran his sleeve over his wet glasses. "In any case, it's dry there," he said at last.

She went up the stairs, Gregorius held the door open for her, and then they stood in the hall, which seemed especially empty and quiet now that classes had started. Her coat was dripping.

"Wait here," said Gregorius and went to the bathroom to get a towel.

At the mirror, he dried the glasses and wiped off his face. The numbers could still be seen on his forehead. He held a corner of the towel under the warm water and wanted to start rubbing when he stopped in the middle of the movement. That was the moment that decided everything, he thought when he recalled the event hours later. That is, all of a sudden, he realized that he really didn't want to wipe away the trace of his encounter with the enigmatic woman.

He imagined appearing before the class afterward with a phone number on his face, he, Mundus, the most reliable and predictable person in this building and probably in the whole history of the school, working here for more than thirty years, impeccable in his profession, a pillar of the institution, a little boring perhaps, but respected and even feared in the university for his astounding knowledge of ancient languages, mocked lovingly by his students who put him to the test every year by calling him in the middle of the night and asking about the conjecture for a remote passage in an ancient text, only to get every time off the top of his head information that was both dry and exhaustive, including a critical commentary with other possible meanings, all of it presented perfectly and calmly without a soupçon of anger at the disturbance — Mundus, a man with an impossibly old-fashioned, even archaic first name you simply had to abbreviate, and couldn't abbreviate any other way, an abbreviation that revealed the character of this man as no other word could have, for what he carried around in him as a philologist was in fact no less than a whole world, or rather several whole worlds, since along with those Latin and Greek passages, his head also held the Hebrew that had amazed several Old Testament scholars. If you want to see a true scholar, the Rector would say when he introduced him to a new class, here he is.

And this scholar, Gregorius thought now, this dry man who seemed to some to consist only of dead words, and who was spitefully called the Papyrus by colleagues who envied him his popularity — this scholar would enter the room with a telephone number painted on his forehead by a desperate woman apparently torn between rage and love, a woman in a red leather coat with a fabulously soft, southern voice, that sounded like an endless hesitant drawl that drew you in merely by hearing it.

When Gregorius had brought her the towel, the woman clamped a comb between her teeth and used the towel to rub the long black hair lying in the coat collar as in a bowl. The janitor entered the hall and, when he saw Gregorius, cast an amazed look at the clock over the exit and then at his watch. Gregorius nodded to him, as he always did. A student hurried past, turned around twice and went on.

"I teach up there," Gregorius said to the woman and pointed up through a window to another part of the building. Seconds passed. He felt his heart beat. "Do you want to come along?"

Later, Gregorius couldn't believe he had really said that; but he must have, for all at once they walked to the classroom next to each other; he heard the screech of his rubber soles on the linoleum and the clack of the boots when the woman put her foot down.

"What's your mother tongue?" he had asked her just now.

"Português," she had answered.

The o she pronounced surprisingly as a u, the rising, strangely constrained lightness of the é and the soft sh at the end came together in a melody that sounded much longer than it really was, and that he could have listened to all day long.

"Wait," he said now, took his notebook out of his jacket and ripped out a page: "For the number."

His hand was on the doorknob when he asked her to say the word once more. She repeated it, and for the first time he saw her smile.

The chatter broke off abruptly when they entered the classroom. A silence of one single amazement filled the room. Later, Gregorius remembered precisely: He had enjoyed this surprised silence, this speechless incredulity, that spoke from every single face, and he had also enjoyed his delight at being able to feel in a way he would never have believed possible.

What's up now? The question spoke from every single one of the twenty looks that fell on the peculiar couple at the door, on Mundus, standing with a wet bald head and a rain-darkened coat next to a hastily combed woman with a pale face.

"Perhaps there?" said Gregorius to the woman and pointed to the empty chair in the back corner. Then he advanced, greeted them as usual, and sat down behind the desk. He had no idea how he could have explained, and so he simply had them translate the text they were working on. The translations were halting, and he caught some curious looks. There were also bewildered looks for he — he, Mundus, who recognized every error even in his sleep — was overlooking dozens of errors, half measures, and awkwardness.

He managed not to look over at the woman. Yet, every second he saw her, saw the damp strands stroking her face, the white hands clenched, the absent, lost look going out the window. Once she took out the pen and wrote the phone number on the notebook page. Then she leaned back again and hardly seemed to know where she was.

It was an impossible situation and Gregorius glanced at the clock: ten more minutes until the break. Then the woman got up and walked softly to the door. When she got there, she turned around to him and put her finger on her lips. He nodded and she repeated the gesture with a smile. Then the door fell shut with a soft click.

From this moment on, Gregorius no longer heard anything the students said. It was as if he were all alone and enclosed in a numbing silence. At some time he stood at the window and watched the red female figure until she had disappeared around the corner. He felt the effort not to run after her reverberate in him. He kept seeing the finger on her lips that could mean so many things: I don't want to disturb, and It's our secret, but also, Let me go now, this can't go on.

When the bell rang for the break, he stood still at the window. Behind him, the students left more quietly than usual. Later he went out too, left the building through the back door and sat down across the street in the public library, where nobody would look for him.

For the second part of the double class, he was on time as always. He had rubbed the numbers off his forehead, written them down in the notebook after a minute of hesitation and then dried the narrow fringe of gray hair. Only the damp spots on his jacket and pants still revealed that there had been something unusual. Now he took the stack of soaked notebooks out of his briefcase.

"A mishap," he said tersely. "I stumbled and they slipped out, in the rain. Nevertheless, the corrections should still be legible; otherwise, you have to work on your conjectures."

That was how they knew him and an audible sigh of relief went through the room. Now and then, he still caught a curious look, and a remnant of shyness was in a few voices. Otherwise, everything was as before. He wrote the most frequent errors on the board. Then he let the students work silently on their own.

Could what happened to him in the next quarter hour be called a decision? Later, Gregorius was to keep asking the question and never was he sure. But if it wasn't a decision — what was it?

It began when he suddenly looked at the students bending over their notebooks as if he were seeing them for the first time.

Lucien von Graffenried, who had secretly moved a piece in the annual chess tournament in the auditorium, where Gregorius had played simultaneous matches against a dozen students. After the moves on the other boards, Gregorius had stood before him again. He noticed it immediately. He looked at him calmly. Lucien's face flamed red. "That's beneath you," said Gregorius and then made sure this game ended in a draw.

Sarah Winter, who had stood outside the door of his flat at two in the morning because she didn't know what to do with her pregnancy. He had made her tea and listened, nothing else. "I'm so glad I followed your advice," she said a week later. "It would have been much too early to have a baby."

Beatrice Lüscher with the regular, precise handwriting who had grown old frighteningly fast under the burden of her always perfect achievements. René Zingg, always at the lowest end of the scale.

And naturally, Natalie Rubin. A girl who was stingy with her favor, a bit like a courtly maiden of the past, reserved, idolized and feared for her sharp tongue. Last week, after the bell rang for the break, she had stood up, stretched like someone at ease in her own body, and taken a piece of candy out of her shirt pocket. On the way to the door, she unwrapped it and when she passed him, she put it to her mouth. It had just touched her lips when she broke off the movement, turned to him, held the bright red candy to him and asked: "Want it?" Amused at his astonishment, she had laughed her strange light laugh and made sure her hand touched his.

Gregorius went through them all. At first he seemed to be only drawing up an interim balance sheet of his feelings for them. Then, in the middle of the rows of benches, he noticed that he was thinking more frequently: How much life they still have before them; how open their future still is; how much can still happen to them; how much they can still experience!

Português. He heard the melody and saw the woman's face as it had emerged with closed eyes behind the rubbing towel, white as alabaster. One last time, he slid his eyes over the heads of the students. Then he stood up slowly, went to the door where he took the damp coat off the hook, and disappeared, without turning around, from the room.

His briefcase with the books that had accompanied him a lifetime remained behind on the desk. At the top of the steps, he paused and thought how he had taken the books to be rebound every couple of years, always to the same shop, where they laughed at the dog-eared, worn-out pages that felt almost like blotting paper. As long as the case lay on the desk, the students would assume he was coming back. But that wasn't why he had left the books or why he now resisted the temptation to get them. If he left now, he also had to go away from those books. He felt that very clearly, even if at this moment, on the way out, he had no idea what it really meant: to go away.

In the entrance hall, his look fell on the little puddle that had formed when the woman in the dripping coat had waited for him to come back from the bathroom. It was the trace of a visitor from another, faraway world, and Gregorius regarded it with a devotion usually reserved for archaeological finds. Only when he heard the janitor's shuffling step did he tear himself away and hurry out of the building.

Without turning around, he walked to the corner, where he could look back unseen. With a sudden force he wouldn't have expected of himself, he felt how much he loved this building and everything it stood for and how much he would miss it. He checked the numbers again: Forty-two years ago, as a fifteen-year-old Gymnasium student, he had entered it for the first time, wavering between anticipation and apprehension. Four years later, he had left it with his diploma in hand, only to come back again four years later as a substitute for the Greek teacher who had been in an accident, the teacher who had once opened the ancient world to him. The student substitute turned into a permanent student substitute, who was thirty-three by the time he finally took his university exams.


Excerpted from "Night Train to Lisbon"
by .
Copyright © 2004 Carl Hanser Verlag Muenchen Wien.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Night Train to Lisbon 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The plot of Night Train To Lisbon begins with a well-worn premise: a character stuck in the routine of life suddenly receives an epiphany and goes on a horizon-expanding quest to find himself. But few novels or movies plumb the philosophical depths of this novel, the third by Swiss philosophy professor Peter Bieri, whose nom de plume is Pascal Mercier. A bestseller in Europe when it was first published in 2004, it is translated for the first time from German to English by Barbara Harshav. In this novel, the soon-to-be englightened protagonist is Raimund Gregorius, a 57-year-old divorced teacher of ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew at a secondary school in Bern, Switzerland, the same one he attended as a school boy. For years he has stuck to this uneventful life, watching his students come and go over the top of his Coke-bottle glasses and beloved textbooks of dead languages. But he is inspired to 'take his life into his own hands for the first time' after meeting a mysterious Portugese woman on the bridge he crosses every day to go to school. Thus, he abandons class, goes to a bookshop and comes across a Portugese book titled A Goldsmith Of Words by a man named Amadeu Inacio De Almeida Prado. He knows not the language, but has the bookseller translate for him. He is struck by a sentence: 'Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us - what happens with the rest?' We find out when Gregorius ups and leaves, abandoning home and school to travel to Lisbon, in search of the mysterious author of the book. He finds out that the latter, a doctor and a member of the resistance fighting against dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, died in 1973. But he is able to track down siblings and friends through some painstaking detective work. Most of them have their own samples of Amadeu's writing, and Gregorius slowly (and the plot indeed takes its time to unfurl in this 438-page tome) gains insight into a brilliant, melancholic man, a clever wordsmith who was yet frustrated by the inabaility of words to truly bridge the distance between people. The characters in the novel are rather old-fashioned in a Romantic sort of way, with soul-tortured people who haunt rooms where time has stopped, who harbour heart-rending regrets that from the central core of their lives, who swoon and bang their heads against the walls due to inner tumult. But such gothic cheesiness is compensated by the nuggets of philosophy revealed as Gregorius goes about his quest. This is a book that trustst the reader to concentrate, to plough through chunks of italicised excerpts from Amadeu's book, with musings ranging from why we fear death to how travel allows us to bridge distances externally and internally. This novel is a dense, and at times tedious, read. But the moments of exquisitely crystalised insight will have you scrambling for a pen to jot them down, and are well worth this long train ride.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i read mystery novels almost exclusively. i found this in a used book store, the cover caught my attn so i read the back. i bought it. it is a great story. a wonderful change from the predictable mystery is this predictable epiphany novel. it is not a book i read in 2 hrs. if you can purchase this title i encourage you to do so and sink into this engrossing tale.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier, translated from German by Barbara Harshav This is the story of two men - Raimund Gregorius and Amadeu Ignácio de Almeida Prado - and how a book joins them forever. Raimund (Mundus, or Papyrus) is a professor of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew at the The Gymnasium, a Swiss Lycée in Bern, and has a very structured life. You can predict what Mundus will do because it has remained the same for over 30 years. One day, Mundus meets a Portuguese woman at a bridge and he thinks she's going to jump into the river. Mundus does the unthinkable - he talks to her and in doing so, something snaps inside him. He asks the woman to come to his lecture and, later, he actually goes to a bookstore and is given the posthumous works of Amadeu Ignácio de Almeida Prado - Prado. As Mundus thinks the book is talking to him, he's transformed - and decides on an impulse to go to Lisbon on the next train so he can find out more about this mysterious man who "speaks" to him. The transforming book is the story of Prado - a physician who was cursed because he saved the life of the butcher of Lisbon, Rui Luís Mendes, Salazar's top cop under his dictatorship. To atone for this, Prado joins the resistance and helps save the love of his life. The two stories develop as a parallel in which Mundus has to visit everyone who was important in Prado's life: his two sisters, his love interests, his friends.... In doing so, the author presents his views on just about everything: life, love, religion, loneliness, death - thus becoming a metaphysical work. The work is narrated from the the third person point of view, except for Prado's work which is narrated from the first person point of view. This is not a light read, it's cerebral and it reads slowly. I enjoyed the work, but I was disappointed with the ending. It left me wanting to know what eventually happens to Mundus...
utdelilah More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the movie. I purchased the book and I have to agree with another reviewer who said they got "a quarter of the way through the book and lost the will to live". I laughed and laughed. My sentiments exactly, If you are a big fan of philosophical soul searching you will enjoy this book. I did not. I found it to be extremely tedious and self indulgent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story and excellent writing. Best book read in a long time
bookwoman247 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Raimund Gregorious is a complete creature of habit. He teaches classical languages at a lycee in Bern. His entire life has been absorbed in studying and teaching these ancient languages. He is such a dry scholar that he has earned the nickname "Papyrus".When he has an unexpected encounter on a bridge with a mysterious Portuguese woman, and then discovers the little-known work of a Portuguese author, Dr. Amadeu de Prado, Gregorious experiences a sudden, life-altering transformation. Instead of showing up, to work at the lycee as usual, he decides to pursue the author and find out as much about him as possible; what made him tick, etc.. He departs for Lisbon, leaving only belated, confusing explanations for his colleagues.As he delves deeper into the life of Prado, he finds that Prado and many of his aquaintances were involved in the resistance against Portugal's dictator, Salazar.This was an excellent book. The tone is very similar to Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruíz Zafon. The language was sumptous.However, I found that as much as I loved it, my interest began to wane about two-thirds of the way through the book. That was an unusual reaction from me, and I'm not sure what caused it. There seemed to be some kind of shift where language became less important than the characters and historical events. It also became more about Prado, and less about Gregorious and his reaction to him.Overall, though, I loved it! Not only for the language, but for giving me a chance to learn about a place and bit of history that I knew little or nothing about. Until now, Portugal wasn't much more than an extension of Spain, to me, with a nearly blank history. I was rather shocked that I hadn't known of these events that happened during my adolescence half a world away.
baswood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Our life, those are fleeting formations of quicksand formed by one gust of wind, destroyed by the next. Images of futility that blow away even before they have properly formed¿.I cracked open Pascal Mercier¿s book with some trepidation, not really in the mood to read yet another novel written by a philosophy lecturer that specialised in wise words on the meaning or otherwise of our existence. This one has our hero picking up a book in a foreign bookstore and setting out on a hunt to meet the author; the purveyor of wisdom. There have been a number of these literary detection novels where a little known writer is tracked down by afictionado¿s in search of literary fame. Possession by A S Byatt springs to mind. I feared that Night Train to Lisbon would be an uneasy amalgamation of one of these with some philosophical thoughts as evinced in my recently read of The Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. The snippets from critical reviews on the inside cover claiming the book would be a life changing experience written by a visionary author, also did not bode well.Imagine my surprise when I found myself completely caught up in this novel¿s milieu from the moment that Raimund Gregorius stepped into a Spanish book shop in his home town of Bern Switzerland with his head ringing with the sound of the Portuguese language. The bookshop ¿smelt wonderfully of old leather and dust¿ as Gregorius picks from a shelf; UM OURIVES DAS PALAVARAS by AMADEU INACIO DE ALMEIDA PRADO, LISBOA 1975. He does not read Portuguese but the book seller reads out loud for him the title and a short introduction. Gregorius is captivated by the sound of the language and when the book seller translates a passage including the sentence ¿Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us¿ he realises he must have this book. He rushes home armed with a Portuguese dictionary so that he can make his own translations.As lovers of books and bookshops, that we all are, who has not had that moment of discovery similar to Gregorius¿s; Mercier¿s sympathetically well drawn leading character, who has spent his life as a student and then a teacher of classical languages. Gregorius¿s careful translations reveals an exotic world of modern thought and investigations into language and the use of words. He wants to know more, he wants to meet the author, he wants to be in Portugal and so he walks away from his job and his life in Bern and boards a train to Lisbon. I have done something similar in my life a couple of times and so I was travelling hopefully with Gregorius. I was still concerned however that Mercier¿s book might either sink under a weight of cod philosophy or that Gregorius the 57 year old scholar would prove to be so capable and resourceful that he would become totally unbelievable. I needn¿t have worried I was in safe hands.A chance meeting on the Lisbon train with a business man gives Gregorius some contacts and a foothold in the city, Gregorius says:¿There were those people who read and there were others, whether you were a reader or a non-reader, it was soon apparent. There was no greater distinction between people. People were amazed when he asserted this and many shook their heads at such crankiness, but that¿s how it was and Gregorius knew it. He knew it.¿The city of Lisbon is explored not by its tourist sights, but by its bookshops. Gregorius soon learns that Amandeu had died in 1973, but his publisher puts him in contact with members of his family. He continues to translate chapters from the book as he tracks down two sisters. The elder sister Adriana is still under the power of her brother. The house where she assisted his work as a doctor remains untouched since the day of his death. It is a shrine. In contrast Melodie still living in the family house is a girl ¿who didn¿t seem to touch the ground¿. Friends and lovers are contacted and it soon becomes apparent that Amandeu was involved in the resistance movement against the Portuguese dictat
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book is mostly a study in philosophy and becomes a bit tedious. The plot is essentially a Portuguese doctor's life as told to a Swiss teacher who travels to Portugal as a result of a midlife crisis; this is in pieces and in retrospect by those who admired him. Relative to the mid-life crisis; things which resonated with me:- How fundamental changes to one's life occur because of small, soft, hidden things as opposed to "big moments".- The wish to go back to moments in life and take a completely different direction, one that is more true to oneself.- The arbitrariness of one's life; how accidents and chance lead to the path one takes.Relative to philosophy, among other things:- The inability to truly understand the inner workings of the people around us, or to change their viewpoint when communicating with them. The ridiculous stories we invent to explain people or our life when reality is far more complicated.- The stupidity of vanity. " have to forget the cosmic meaninglessness of all our acts to be able to be vain and that's a glaring form of stupidity."- The reverence and loathing for the word of God. This speech is the high point of the book; the conflict felt between needing the poetry of the Bible and religion which disparages man's innate reason and physical urges. (unfortunately this is at p.168 of 438).- "life is not what we live, it's what we imagine living."They're interwoven and common to both is the persistence of memory; how events and what people said at various points in life are always with us in the present.It's all pretty contrived - the travel set in motion initially by an encounter with a woman who really has no relevance, how the teacher is able to track down all of the major characters in the doctor's life and get them to produce various "unopened letters" and the like that reveal more of the philosophy, and the characters themselves, who often don't seem realistic.I think I would rate it higher had it been significantly pared down in length. The ending is a nice touch; I'm surprised others don't read what I do into it and wonder what's next.
Larrythelibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
tedious beyond belief
michaelbartley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, it is so wonderful, a old man, a teacher of classical languages changes his life and takes a great advanture but it much more then that it looks at language, ethics, love duty all that is life
jagriffiths on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Struggled to get about quarter of the way through then lost the will to live.
Adolphogordo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Swiss professor of classical languages felt in love with the Portuguese language. While learning Portuguese he found a manuscript in that language. Then starts his adventures and the reader recives a very good lesson in contemporary Portugal.
eclecticreader51 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Such an appealing premise - a late-middleage teacher ditching his job on a whim tofollow an intuition. I'm intrigued andhave to see how this will work out forthe character, a scholarly type for whomwords and books seem as real as the personalitieshe meets on his journey.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quiet professor of languages in Bern chances upon a Portuguese woman one night and can't get her out of his mind. He looks to buy a Portuguese language book and finds instead, a memoir by a Portuguese doctor, one who was beloved by everyone until he treated a member of Salazar's secret police and was then shunned by his former patients and friends. The words the professor reads has such a profound impact on him that he is compelled to learn everything possible about this doctor. He leaves his job at the spur of the moment and takes the train to Lisbon. He learns Portuguese and through reading chapters in the memoir, he searches for the people who knew the doctor.This is a book within a book .. we read the memoir written by the doctor, his hopes, his fears, his philosophy and his torment. As the professor meets with the people who knew this doctor, we get their perspectives of the man and what he meant to them. In the process, we see the professor change too. His journeys to places the doctor visited or lived in help him expand his horizons and broaden his self-analysis. I loved the depth and complexity of all the characters introduced, and the relationships the professor forms with some of them.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel will, without question, be one of my all-time favorites. No kidding! Reading "Night Train to Lisbon" was an intellectual, philosophical, literary feast. Gregorius, a teacher of dead languages, commits the first impulsive act of his adult life and begins the most crucial journey of his entire lifetime. His journey ends up consisting of the quest to understand the life of another man, Amadeu Prado. In the course of the journey, Gregorius and the reader meet Adriana, wearing a ribbon at her neck to cover a mysterious scar. We meet Jorge O'Kelly, Amadeu's best friend and worst enemy. We meet the women from Amadeu's life, including his wife, his lifelong intimate confidante, and the woman who ignited his passion. We meet resistance fighters from the time of Salazar's regime. We meet physicians, bookstore owners, and students. The cast of characters is rich and varied. Most importantly we are allowed the time to ponder the meaning of life, of love, the critical nature of farewells, of the magnificent power of words, especially poetry, and the amazing power of feeling known to another person. This is a powerful and moving literary masterpiece, in my opinion!
BALE on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Life is not what we live, it is what we imagine we are living.¿ ¿It takes divine courage & divine strength to live with oneself in perfect truth.¿ ¿Imagination is our last sanctuary.¿ These are a few quotes from the fictional author, A. Prado, in Night Train to Lisbon. He is referred to as, ¿the goldsmith of words¿, by those who have known him. In truth, it is Pascal Mercier who forms these philosophically insightful words and shares them with us through Raimund Gregorius, a professor, who breaks from his routine life when introduced to a book of Prado¿s writings. Gregorius takes a train to Lisbon to begin his journey. Ultimately, it is to learn about the life of Prado. Yet, in doing so, learns about himself, too. There are many spokes that radiate from this central theme. They take us through the map of the theoretical mind to look at and reconsider our inner (the soul) and outer (who we are perceived to be) lives. Mercier carries us through a passage of space and time we will reflect on for the remainder of our lives. This is not a kitsch novel (a little dry humor for those familiar with this book) with an excess of overbearing platitudes. It is a deeply experienced odyssey of the mind and soul.
meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My around-the-world book for Portugal. The idea of a staid, even stuffy professor of classical languages deciding to chuck it all and run away to Lisbon intrigued me.Okay, finished. I liked the book more than I thought I would. I enjoyed unraveling the tale of Amadeu Prado's life, and felt a sense of deja vu because I did much the same thing as Gregorius once. Several years ago I traveled to a distant city to research the life of a dead man, a man who'd made an impact on everyone he touched, a man who remains an object of fascination for me. Like Gregorius, I just sort of randomly visited people who had known him, asked about him, took notes, read his writings, etc.However, the author here couldn't seem to make up his mind as to whether he was writing philosophy or fiction. All the characters talked the same, and it seems unlikely that EVERYONE Gregorius met would be so eager to help him in his quest. And also, although the book is set in the 21st century, things like computers and cell-phones barely exist in the story. I'm sure they're used in Europe as often in America. I understand that a late-middle-aged professor of classical languages would be less likely to depend on electronics than, say, me, but it felt kind of weird.With this in mind I must give the book three-and-a-half stars only.
heathereb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like a rich meal which needs to be savoured mouthful, by mouthful. So much to think about. Wanted to start again at the beginning as soon as I finished. Wow!
izzynomad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a lovely travel story about a teacher who just walks out of class and changes his life through traveling
evelynapeters on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A thinking person's book on life...if we can only live one small part of our lives, what happens to the rest? An excellent read.
kewing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating and frustrating novel, full of philosophical tangents, self-analysis, moral quandaries, loyalty, jealousy and love. The story is frustrating in its remoteness--not so much the plot (what little there is), as the manner in which it is told. Most of the characters talk about a story, their relationship with a doctor/philosopher/poet involved in the resistance to the Salazar dictatorship, brutal self-analysis, and a love triangle, from thirty years ago. These stories come through conversations with the central character, a not very sympathetic philologist searching for meaning in his own life through that of the doctor. From a distance, the novel seems like a broad desert valley; but there are rare insights, occasional blossoms of delight, scattered on the surface that compel the reader's interest. Ultimately, the story is rewarding, but it's not for everyone.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everything about his book suggested to me I should like it. First, it was highly recommended by a friend of mine, and I was excited to finally find it in a Netherlands bookstore, after searching fruitlessly for it for over a year. Then, it is my kind of story: a man has a chance encounter with a woman and embarks on a journey of the soul in which he comes to know himself for who he truly is. Isabel Allende, a great storyteller herself, is quoted on the front of the book saying it was "one of the best books I have read in a long time." Will I be forgiven if I say I struggled to finish the damn thing? Seriously. I seldom stop reading books, once I start, but I just found the dialog in this book unbelievable. Characters, people I know, just don't talk in such complete and polished sentences, about such rarefied topics. (I probably hang out in the wrong circles.) And I thought stories were suppose to show, instead of tell. Overall, a major disappointment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was prompted to read Night Train to Lisbon because I am heading there in a month and so I was hoping to get a flavor for the area. Turns out there is not a lot of literary fiction written with Portugal as a backdrop. This did fit the bill as to providing some nice descriptions of the neighborhood and some history as to the Salazar dictatorship. Also there was this quote that I shared with my fellow travelers: "Why do we feel sorry for people who can’t travel? Because, unable to expand externally, they are not able to expand internally either, they can’t multiply and so they are deprived of the possibility of undertaking expansive excursions in themselves and discovering who and what else they could have become." In the novel the main character Raimund Gregorius has completely abandoned his former dull life of being a Greek and Latin professor in Bern to pursue an author of a book he is trying to read in Portuguese. He's not exactly sure why he's making this quest or why he is radically changing his life, but he feels compelled to translate the philosophical ideas of its author, Amadeu de Prado. When he arrives in Lisbon, he begins his search for clues that will help to unravel the story behind this writer. Gregorius meets with a number a colorful characters that start to provide pieces to the puzzle that was Amadeus, a town doctor turned resistance fighter. As the NYT's wrote "Pascal Mercier’s “Night Train to Lisbon” delves into the question of national and personal identity, contains a text within a novel and explicitly invokes the tale of Odysseus and his 20-year journey through pain toward self-knowledge." Though I enjoyed the setting, I was somewhat disappointed with the direction of the plot which I felt could have used a bit more resolution. I'd be interested to view the movie that was made from this international best seller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago