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Night Train to Lisbon

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A huge international best seller, this ambitious novel plumbs the depths of our shared humanity to offer up a breathtaking insight into life, love, and literature itself. A major hit in Germany that went on to become one of Europes biggest literary blockbusters in the last five years, Night Train to Lisbon is an astonishing novel, a compelling exploration of consciousness, A huge international best seller, this ambitious novel plumbs the depths of our shared humanity to offer up a breathtaking insight into life, love, and literature itself. A major hit in Germany that went on to become one of Europe’s biggest literary blockbusters in the last five years, Night Train to Lisbon is an astonishing novel, a compelling exploration of consciousness, the possibility of truly understanding another person, and the ability of language to define our very selves. Raimund Gregorius is a Latin teacher at a Swiss college who one day—after a chance encounter with a mysterious Portuguese woman—abandons his old life to start a new one. He takes the night train to Lisbon and carries with him a book by Amadeu de Prado, a (fictional) Portuguese doctor and essayist whose writings explore the ideas of loneliness, mortality, death, friendship, love, and loyalty. Gregorius becomes obsessed by what he reads and restlessly struggles to comprehend the life of the author. His investigations lead him all over the city of Lisbon, as he speaks to those who were entangled in Prado’s life. Gradually, the picture of an extraordinary man emerges—a doctor and poet who rebelled against Salazar’s dictatorship.


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A huge international best seller, this ambitious novel plumbs the depths of our shared humanity to offer up a breathtaking insight into life, love, and literature itself. A major hit in Germany that went on to become one of Europes biggest literary blockbusters in the last five years, Night Train to Lisbon is an astonishing novel, a compelling exploration of consciousness, A huge international best seller, this ambitious novel plumbs the depths of our shared humanity to offer up a breathtaking insight into life, love, and literature itself. A major hit in Germany that went on to become one of Europe’s biggest literary blockbusters in the last five years, Night Train to Lisbon is an astonishing novel, a compelling exploration of consciousness, the possibility of truly understanding another person, and the ability of language to define our very selves. Raimund Gregorius is a Latin teacher at a Swiss college who one day—after a chance encounter with a mysterious Portuguese woman—abandons his old life to start a new one. He takes the night train to Lisbon and carries with him a book by Amadeu de Prado, a (fictional) Portuguese doctor and essayist whose writings explore the ideas of loneliness, mortality, death, friendship, love, and loyalty. Gregorius becomes obsessed by what he reads and restlessly struggles to comprehend the life of the author. His investigations lead him all over the city of Lisbon, as he speaks to those who were entangled in Prado’s life. Gradually, the picture of an extraordinary man emerges—a doctor and poet who rebelled against Salazar’s dictatorship.

30 review for Night Train to Lisbon

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susanna-Cole King

    When, on a whim, I threw everything away to wander thousands of miles from anything I've ever known, I first went to Lisbon because of this book. That was last September, and by November I had traipsed through neighboring Spain and south into Africa, though, I've since been back to the city of Lisbon, and furthermore to this book. If you are not, at least in some part, a thinker, if philosophy ebbs away at your patience, if the sight of pages mostly barren of dialogue make you panic, this book When, on a whim, I threw everything away to wander thousands of miles from anything I've ever known, I first went to Lisbon because of this book. That was last September, and by November I had traipsed through neighboring Spain and south into Africa, though, I've since been back to the city of Lisbon, and furthermore to this book. If you are not, at least in some part, a thinker, if philosophy ebbs away at your patience, if the sight of pages mostly barren of dialogue make you panic, this book will likely only serve to make you restless and agitated. However, in the hands of certain souls, I am doubtless that it is capable of causing a chain reaction of reckless, ambitious soul searching and self-changes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    A teacher of dead languages (Latin, Greek) at a German prep school has no real friends or even much of a life to speak of. One day he stops a despondent young woman from jumping off a bridge. She is Portuguese and he then begins reading a work by a Portuguese author and becomes obsessed with finding out about the author. He quits his dull job of many years (in the same school he attended as a boy) and hops a train to Lisbon even though he doesnt even speak Portuguese. So this is novel of male A teacher of dead languages (Latin, Greek) at a German prep school has no real friends or even much of a life to speak of. One day he stops a despondent young woman from jumping off a bridge. She is Portuguese and he then begins reading a work by a Portuguese author and becomes obsessed with finding out about the author. He quits his dull job of many years (in the same school he attended as a boy) and hops a train to Lisbon even though he doesn’t even speak Portuguese. So this is novel of male midlife crisis. (The author is a German philosophy professor.) The narrator goes back to retrace the life of the Portuguese author and finds he is deceased. In the story, he intersperses many deep passages from the fictitious book. He interviews family and friends, and former teachers, even camping out in the author’s abandoned school building. His sister tells us “…his soul was made of words, in a way I had never experienced with anybody else.” We begin to question the narrator’s sanity as he almost starts to become the person he is shadowing, even seeming to start having his physical ailments. During the course of the story we see how the fictitious author wrestled with the Big Questions of good and evil and love. As the narrator learns of someone else’s life, he reflects upon his own. He gets new glasses and finds out how poor his old ones were – a metaphor for what is happening to him. We are treated to a lot of the local color of Lisbon and we learn a bit about Portugal’s “Carnation Revolution” of 1974 that overthrew the remnants of the dictatorship of Salazar. The book is reasonably fast-paced for what seems to be heavy stuff. I highly recommend it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Apparently, Page des Libraires calls this 'One of the great European novels of the past few years'- compared to what? The SNCF Railway Timetable. This book makes me incredibly angry. And after some thought I can honestly award it the 'worst book I have ever read' award. I could forgive it for being slow. I could forgive the missed opportunities of drawing what potentially could have been interesting characters in two dimensions. I could even forgive the shockingly bad translation (it has not even Apparently, Page des Libraires calls this 'One of the great European novels of the past few years'- compared to what? The SNCF Railway Timetable. This book makes me incredibly angry. And after some thought I can honestly award it the 'worst book I have ever read' award. I could forgive it for being slow. I could forgive the missed opportunities of drawing what potentially could have been interesting characters in two dimensions. I could even forgive the shockingly bad translation (it has not even been properly proofed or sub-edited and some of the words are just wrongly translated). But what I cannot forgive or forget are the pitiful attempts at philosophy the book espouses, particularly through the supposed writings of the dead Amadeu de Prado. They read like the ramblings of a conceited teenager. I read this book to the end, out of spite and because I refused to let it defeat me. It was a battle of the wills and I won. But what a shocking, shameful, sham this piece of cod philosophy. Do not buy this book, even if you are intrigued to see how bad it is.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Luís C.

    On a rainy morning, a woman prepares to jump off a bridge in Bern. Raimund persuades her not to do it and she succeeds, but then the woman disappears. All we know is that she's Portuguese. In the afternoon, he enters a bookstore and, by chance, discovers a book by a Portuguese author. Amadeu de Prado, who was a doctor, poet and resistant during Salazarism. Raimund has long been a teacher of Latin and Greek, which already excites him as little as his marriage, already in a state of On a rainy morning, a woman prepares to jump off a bridge in Bern. Raimund persuades her not to do it and she succeeds, but then the woman disappears. All we know is that she's Portuguese. In the afternoon, he enters a bookstore and, by chance, discovers a book by a Portuguese author. Amadeu de Prado, who was a doctor, poet and resistant during Salazarism. Raimund has long been a teacher of Latin and Greek, which already excites him as little as his marriage, already in a state of disintegration. He learns Portuguese and one night he sets himself on a train to Lisbon, a city that will be the place of all revelations: the mysteries of human life, courage, love and death. Thanks Kalliope, for the book recomendation!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    I LOVED this book. I've been running around quoting "Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us - what happens to the rest?" Part of me wants to say that that line, and the subject of this book, the exploration of alternate lives than the one you've chosen, resonated with me because I'm at that age when one recognizes how much will go undone, how many experiences will never be felt, how many lives could still be lived, given world enough and time. But actually, I've had this I LOVED this book. I've been running around quoting "Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us - what happens to the rest?" Part of me wants to say that that line, and the subject of this book, the exploration of alternate lives than the one you've chosen, resonated with me because I'm at that age when one recognizes how much will go undone, how many experiences will never be felt, how many lives could still be lived, given world enough and time. But actually, I've had this feeling my whole life. When I was a teenager, I thought about writing a science fiction novel about a character able to make alternate life choices - a kind of parallel worlds "choose your own adventure" - but I wanted it to be one in which it were possible not merely to choose an alternate life, but to choose MORE lives. I didn't want to go back and go down another fork in the road, I wanted to go down all roads. I remember too when I was eighteen or nineteen, and a friend of a friend committed suicide, I was mad. How could she do that? I could use another life, you know! So of course I loved this exploration of how a character can walk away from his life, how he can explore, through words and conversations, another life (not just the present). There is a lot of wisdom in this book, and a lot of beautiful writing. If I hadn't read To the Lighthouse this year, it would be hands-down the best book I read this year. As it is, I'm calling it a tie. Both are fabulous explorations of the inner life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    When dictatorship is a fact, revolution is a duty.Normally, I would just leave it at that. It's a nice quote I hadn't heard before. But, in the current climate, I am concerned that I will have my account closed down by the GR censors if I don't explain myself more fully, so I guess I'd better do so. I have not read the book, but we saw the movie at a local cinema, using the free gift card that I received as an unexpected bonus with my new contact lenses. Not thought it was great, but I was less When dictatorship is a fact, revolution is a duty.Normally, I would just leave it at that. It's a nice quote I hadn't heard before. But, in the current climate, I am concerned that I will have my account closed down by the GR censors if I don't explain myself more fully, so I guess I'd better do so. I have not read the book, but we saw the movie at a local cinema, using the free gift card that I received as an unexpected bonus with my new contact lenses. Not thought it was great, but I was less impressed; I had been told that the main character's changing perceptions of the Portugese language would play an important part in the story, and to my disappointment everyone spoke English thoughout. You could figure out from the context that they were presumably speaking Portugese or sometimes Swiss German, but all you actually heard was English. Even though the acting and cinematography were excellent and the story was good, I felt cheated. But oh yes, I was forgetting, I need to justify myself. I am not, of course, comparing the very mild form of censorship that Goodreads has recently been practising with the horrors of the Salazar regime. That would be an absurd insult to all the brave people who resisted this appalling dictator, whose unashamedly Fascist government managed to cling to power until 1974, four years after Salazar's death. I would like to know more about how they succeeded in doing that. Presumably there were enough people on the inside supporting them, and they were sufficiently brutal about eliminating anyone on the outside who spoke up against them, that the large mass of citizens who just wanted to live quiet lives figured it was better to accept the status quo. It's terrible; even though I explicitly say that I'm not making this inappropriate comparison, it somehow sounds like I am. I don't know what to do here except to repeat, once more, that Goodreads management is not at all like a Fascist dictatorship. Well, maybe just the tiniest, tiniest bit. In an abstract kind of way. One must admit that there are certain mechanisms in common, though the details of execution are of course completely different. I just can't get this to come out right. Probably the review is off-topic or something else that's now forbidden, but fear of having my account deleted is interfering with my powers of logical thought. Otherwise, I'm sure I'd have done better. Damn. This work by Manny is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

  7. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Airing Aphorisms: Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier (Original Review, December 21st 2007) NB: Read in German. Not every difficult book is by definition a good one - not every challenge is worth taking. A good writer can do both, like Ishiguro. Write a book for the mainstream readers, to pick them up where they stand and travel with them. Or write a book so obscure that only very few will even want to go on that journey, those books If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Airing Aphorisms: “Night Train to Lisbon” by Pascal Mercier (Original Review, December 21st 2007) NB: Read in German. Not every difficult book is by definition a good one - not every challenge is worth taking. A good writer can do both, like Ishiguro. Write a book for the mainstream readers, to pick them up where they stand and travel with them. Or write a book so obscure that only very few will even want to go on that journey, those books are often a sign of arrogance, often more a book for them than for readers. And then you have Eco, who could mix the two.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Nachtzug nach Lissabon = Night Train to Lisbon, Pascal Mercier The book was originally published in German in 2004, and was first published in English in 2008. Night Train to Lisbon is a philosophical novel by Swiss writer Pascal Mercier. It recounts the travels of Swiss Classics instructor Raimund Gregorius as he explores the life of Amadeu de Prado, a Portuguese doctor, during António de Oliveira Salazar's right-wing dictatorship in Portugal. Prado is a serious thinker whose active mind becomes Nachtzug nach Lissabon = Night Train to Lisbon, Pascal Mercier The book was originally published in German in 2004, and was first published in English in 2008. Night Train to Lisbon is a philosophical novel by Swiss writer Pascal Mercier. It recounts the travels of Swiss Classics instructor Raimund Gregorius as he explores the life of Amadeu de Prado, a Portuguese doctor, during António de Oliveira Salazar's right-wing dictatorship in Portugal. Prado is a serious thinker whose active mind becomes evident in a series of his notes collected and read by Gregorius. عنوانها: قطار شبانه‌ی لیسبون؛ قطار شب به لیسبون؛ نویسنده: پاسکال مرسیه؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هفدهم ماه آوریل سال 2014 میلادی عنوان: قطار شبانه‌ی لیسبون؛ نویسنده: پاسکال مرسیه؛ مترجم: مهشید میرمعزی؛ تهران، افق، 1392؛ در 495 ص؛ شابک: 9789643698669؛ چاپ دوم 1392؛ چاپ سوم 1395؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان سویس به زبان آلمانی، - سده 21 م عنوان: قطار شب به لیسبون؛ نویسنده: پاسکال مرسیه؛ مترجم: زهرا نیکان پور؛ طبس، انتشارات فراونگ، 1394؛ در 520 ص؛ شابک: 9786009414031؛ کتاب «قطار شبانه لیسبون» را: «پیتر بیری»، با نام مستعار: «پاسکال مرسیه»، در سال 2004 میلادی بنگاشتند، همین کتاب یکی از بزرگ‌ترین پیروزیهای ایشان، در میدان نگارش بود. «مرسیه» با انتشار این کتاب، وارد جرگه ی نویسندگان فلسفی شدند. با اقتباس از همین رمان، فیلمی با عنوان: «قطار شبانه لیسبون» نیز ساخته شده است. داستان روایتی ست از زندگی آموزگاری که در وسط کلاس درس، مدرسه را ترک می‌کند، و به لیسبون میرود، تا رد پای نویسنده ای اسرارآمیز را بیابد. او غرق یادداشت‌ها و واکنش‌های نویسنده می‌شود؛ یادداشت‌هایی که درباره تجربیات اساسی زندگی هستند. باز هم با افراد بیشتری دیدار می‌کند، افرادیکه به نویسنده ی اسرارآمیز، گاه به چشم: یک پزشک، شاعر، یا مبارز جنبش مقاومت علیه دیکتاتور می‌نگریستند. و...؛ ا. شربیانی

  9. 4 out of 5

    Whitaker

    Ive gone a bit off writing reviews lately. On the other hand, this book made me want to write something to put my thoughts on it into some shape. Incoherent Thought Number One The protagonist, a teacher of dead languages in Bern, is inspired by this book he comes across to quit his job and travel to Portugal to find out more about the writer of the book, Prado. Many reviewers who hated this novel have commented how utterly new-ageishly purile the comments in the book are, more like the thoughts I’ve gone a bit off writing reviews lately. On the other hand, this book made me want to write something to put my thoughts on it into some shape. Incoherent Thought Number One The protagonist, a teacher of dead languages in Bern, is inspired by this book he comes across to quit his job and travel to Portugal to find out more about the writer of the book, Prado. Many reviewers who hated this novel have commented how utterly new-ageishly purile the comments in the book are, more like the thoughts of an emo-goth teen than the profound workings of the inner mind of brilliant doctor-cum-resistance-fighter. I’m wondering whether this is a European existentialist thing though. I came across this whole conceit of a character writing “deep” thoughts in her notebook in another book I read: La Petite Chartreuse. That was one damn depressing book, but the whole notion on people caught up in words and text, and deeply delving into their innate isolation from everyone was a key theme too. That book too was a best seller in France. This intellectual navel-gazing seems to go down really well on the Continent. Incoherent Thought Number Two On the other hand, (view spoiler)[I note that the book ends with Prado’s total disillusionment. After all his inner mind gazing, after all his bravery at confronting difficult ideas and doing hard deeds, he finds himself feeling totally lost and empty. His life, it turns out, has been a fraud. (hide spoiler)] So what are we to make of the author’s intent in all this? Does he really believe in the profundity of Prado’s comments in his book or is he indeed of the opposite view? Incoherent Thought Number Three A lot of Prado’s scribbles deal with our inherent inability to know other people, and of the struggle to know our own selves as honestly as possible. Even language is suspect as too weighted down with the overused dross of cliché to give us the key to this honesty. And yet, the protagonist is a teacher and lover of dead languages. If we take away language, what do we have? (view spoiler)[As the story progresses, the protagonist starts to experience increasing bouts of dizziness, as if he is losing his sense of place in the world. But just how are we supposed to react to this? (hide spoiler)] Incoherent Thought Number Four There’s quite a bit of work being done now on situational ethics, and our reactions to different situations. The classic scenario is where you are standing next to a train switch lever and you see an oncoming train hurtling towards disaster. You can save the train full of hundreds of people by throwing the switch which will send it down another track. But there is a fat man on the track and you are too far away to warn him to run. If you throw the lever, you kill the fat man. If you don’t throw the lever, you kill the hundreds of people on the train by inaction. What do you do? Most people (almost 100% I think) all say that they would throw the lever. Slightly different scenario. Same train, same hundreds of people, same hurtling towards disaster. Except that you are not next to the train switch lever, you are high above it on a beam and the fat man is next to you. If you push the fat man, he is positioned just nicely so that he will fall on the lever and his weight will be heavy enough to cause it to move. The fat man will, unfortunately, die. Almost the same two outcomes in other words. Kill the fat man or kill the train passengers. Now this time, most people all say that they could not bring themselves to push the fat man over. There’s almost a similar dual dilemma in this book. Prado became a member of the Portuguese resistance because of an unfortunate incident he experienced. He was in his clinic when the police chief responsible for the deaths of thousands of Portuguese was brought in dying of heart attack. If he failed to act promptly to save his life, the man would die. He hesitated for an instant, then he convinced himself that his duty as a doctor was not to do harm, and so he saved the man’s life. This earned him the hatred of his neighbours who argued that by saving him he condemned to death hundreds of other innocents. Later, as a member of the resistance, he is asked to kill a fellow resistance fighter whose identity has been betrayed. The woman, who he has fallen in love with, is a danger to the resistance because she holds in her photographic memory details of the entire resistance network. Kill the woman or take the chance that he can hide her away safely for an indefinite period even though the risk to the resistance network was very high? I think the dilemma there, actually, was a little weighted in favour of saving the woman’s life. What if, instead, he were the doctor who was asked to tend to her in prison where she was due to be tortured? Should he kill her or let her go on to spill the beans under torture? Incoherent Thought Number Five I guess all these notes are a little like the book itself. A lot of questions, no real answers. As a story, I kinda liked it though.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    There were the people who read and the others. Whether you were a reader or a non-reader - it was soon apparent. There was no greater distinction between people. Gregorius is a philologist, a middle aged high school teacher of ancient languages in Bern, Switzerland. Hes stuck in his ways without realising it when a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman on a bridge and the discovery of a book by Amadeu de Prado inspire him to walk out of his job and go to Lisbon. Unlikely? Gregorius love of and There were the people who read and the others. Whether you were a reader or a non-reader - it was soon apparent. There was no greater distinction between people. Gregorius is a philologist, a middle aged high school teacher of ancient languages in Bern, Switzerland. He’s stuck in his ways without realising it when a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman on a bridge and the discovery of a book by Amadeu de Prado inspire him to walk out of his job and go to Lisbon. Unlikely? Gregorius’ love of and capacity to learn languages leads him to learn Portuguese so that he can translate Prado’s book himself. He achieves this feat with only a dictionary and some language records, and later lessons in Lisbon, to help. Unlikely? He becomes curious about Prado and, once in Lisbon, decides to speak to those who knew him, to find out more about his life. Almost without exception, Prado’s friends and family are open to discussing their relationship with Prado. Unlikely? Yes, it’s all very unlikely and yet.... Prado’s book and other writings are an act of self exploration of the kind most of us indulge in when we’re in our late teens and twenties. He had a breakdown as a young man and clearly still suffers from depression. He also suffers from verbosity, pomposity and self-obsession. Throughout the book, I couldn’t decide if his writings were deliberately pretentious, by which I mean that this is who the author wanted him to be, or if the author is indulging in a cathartic exercise himself. I still don’t know. Despite all of this, I found the story compelling. Gregorius’ investigation reveals lives lived in fear under the dictatorship of Salazar, leader of the Estrada Novo, the authoritarian government that ruled Portugal with an iron fist until 1974. I knew nothing about this terrible period in Portuguese history. I don’t really know how I feel about this book but I didn’t want to put it down and it made me think about a lot of different issues. It’s quite extraordinary in its own way and, although much of it is based on unlikely premises, quite original. That’s why I’ve given it 4 stars. Update: I’ve just watched the film of the book. It only bears a passing resemblance to it. Quite a good movie but a lot of fabrication. The last 20 minutes or so is completely new. I can’t say the book is better than the film because they’re too different to compare them.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tricia

    This book took me a long, long time to read, but I am glad I stuck with it. A very philosophical book -- it asks the reader to imagine what would happen if you questioned everything about your life and started a new existence. The main character in this book does exactly that, using a book written by a Portuguese doctor to as a tool for self-discovery. If you want to be prompted to think more deeply about life, who you truly are, and about human nature in general, read this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    J

        Why would you give me this book to read? Why? You didnt like it. At the time I was too pleased to have a present to care. You could have put anything in my hands and Id have been delighted. A pen, a purl, a plum But this? Pah!     At the time, I thought it might still be a good story though. It looked to be a quiet, interior journey. Our man, Gregorius, has a thing for words. I can relate. But not in the way I relate at the beginning of Disneys Beauty and the Beast. Gregorius is no Belle.     Why would you give me this book to read? Why? You didn’t like it. At the time I was too pleased to have a present to care. You could have put anything in my hands and I’d have been delighted. A pen, a purl, a plum… But this? Pah!     At the time, I thought it might still be a good story though. It looked to be a quiet, interior journey. Our man, Gregorius, has a thing for words. I can relate. But not in the way I relate at the beginning of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Gregorius is no Belle. Neither is he a Beast; there appears to be no life in him at all. That’s okay. I am endlessly accommodating. I will not give up on him just because he’s boring me to tears as I read. The title promised a night train to Lisbon. Can that be boring? Things are going to pick up. I know it. Gregorius - ‘The Papyrus’ they call him behind his back because he’s so stiff and dry and focused on ancient texts and languages - is a man. And this entire book is devoted to his story, so surely there’s going to be story. Surely we’re going to discover another side to this man and he’s going to come to life, probably gasping and shuddering from being so long denied by the author. I tingled in anticipation.     Gregorius finds the book. The book that will change the course of his life. Yes! Yes! The words stir his soul. Well, not really. You can’t stir anything in a two-dimensional pot like Gregorius. But he might simmer. He might simmer and eventually burn. He’ll catch fire and so will this damned ‘buy one get one half off’ airport novel you’ve gifted me with.     But not yet.     I can be patient. I am endlessly accommodating, endlessly patient. I have done harder things than read this book. I think about those things and, for a time, forget I’m reading this book. How pleasant.     Really this book should be right up my alley. It’s a book about a book. No ordinary book, but a special, secret book. A mysterious Portuguese doctor and resistance fighter’s own Meditations. The words of this imaginary book are at times a balm to the reader, at times a mystery, and at times an echo of his own thoughts. But they move within the reader so deeply that the earth trembles. You know I like that. But I feel cheated. The earth never trembles. Nothing does. All the excitement is of my own imagining.     Still. I want to like this book. So the book my papyrus of a friend, the hopelessly dull Gregorius, has discovered isn’t all that. So Marcus Aurelius outshines it. So what? That’s why he’s Marcus Aurelius and I’m just a daydreamer. Someone who hasn’t met with much philosophy might like it. Someone who has might, for that matter. Hmm… This is where the train derails for me. Not at the millionth typo (along about page six, I think). I am also (almost) endlessly forgiving. I can forgive the editor for falling asleep at page two and doing absolutely no editing whatsoever. I can accept that this boring, boring man walks away from his entire life, takes a (Night – so much more romantic!) train to Lisbon, meets fascinating people and bores them, and all because of a book. I can accept that this book is written in a language he knows nothing of and that he learns it – Portuguese – practically overnight. All these things seem perfectly plausible to me. I can not accept that this man would do these things once the special, secret book is translated for me though. Gregorius is a scholar. Words are very much his thing. His only thing. He knows Marcus Aurelius. He ought to know a little Portuguese. This book he’s found would not change his life. No way. And his obsession with the author’s life? I don’t care! I’m supposed to care. I’m supposed to be completely wrapped up in his journey to find Amadeu de Prado. Instead I find myself wondering how hard it is to get a job as a translator of airport novels.     After 448 pages of wanting to care so much that I’m making up my own alternate scenarios to keep the characters from boring themselves? (The woman writing a phone number on his forehead is a dominatrix. They share a felt-tipped pen fetish. He takes the wrong train and does not go to Lisbon after all. Rather than a chess set under the floorboards for the past thirty years it’s Prado’s dead body hidden there.) I’m furious. This could have been a truly great book. Maybe it is in the original German. In English though? Nein. PS. I’m sure it must be the botched translation. It has to be. There are pieces of it that made me doubt my frustration and want to start again, from the beginning. But for that I’d have to actually care.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Natali

    A story like this only comes along once every few years and storytelling like this is just as rare. I didn't want this book to end, which is very meta because it is a book about a lover of literature who falls in love with an out-of-print memoir from a kindred spirit. The protagonist, like me, dreads finishing his treasured book. There is so much nobility, intelligence, and heart in these characters that I am truly sad that I will never really know them in real life. I was almost honored to A story like this only comes along once every few years and storytelling like this is just as rare. I didn't want this book to end, which is very meta because it is a book about a lover of literature who falls in love with an out-of-print memoir from a kindred spirit. The protagonist, like me, dreads finishing his treasured book. There is so much nobility, intelligence, and heart in these characters that I am truly sad that I will never really know them in real life. I was almost honored to spend time with them in this novel. What a brave and beautiful tale. I'm truly sad that it has come to an end.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    What a fabulous book. I know I will go back to this one to reread passages. To me this wasn't about philosophy. This was a book about how we live or don't live, about who we are and the myriad levels of identity we all have and how much we can ever really know or not know someone. It's about flawed people finding some sort of salvation in their own humanity - or not being able to accept their flawed humanity. If you're looking for gripping clever plots with tight action, go dig up one of the What a fabulous book. I know I will go back to this one to reread passages. To me this wasn't about philosophy. This was a book about how we live or don't live, about who we are and the myriad levels of identity we all have and how much we can ever really know or not know someone. It's about flawed people finding some sort of salvation in their own humanity - or not being able to accept their flawed humanity. If you're looking for gripping clever plots with tight action, go dig up one of the endless potboilers out there and head for the beach. I read through this book, sometimes quickly, and sometimes slowly savoring the ideas behind it. This wasn't supposed to be brilliant philisophical treatise, it was the story of a man's life - a man who was both loved and adored and yet not really known at all, and how the various people who know us paint their own images onto us. I also enjoyed how very much Lisbon was a character in the book as well to some degree as Bern and how much place can play a role in our lives and the impact of changing location no who we are and what we can do.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Owlseyes

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I am very curious about the book*. There are introductory quotes by Michel Montaigne and Fernando Pessoa, both alluding the question of "self" and "the others"...and the "others within ourselves". Basically, it's a story about a Swiss teacher,an erudite, of Greek and Latin, who saves a Portuguese woman when she's attempting suicide at a bridge over the Aare, in Bern, Switzerland.So it starts. Raimund Gregorius is fascinated by the way she speaks French, with the Portuguese accent...and it I am very curious about the book*. There are introductory quotes by Michel Montaigne and Fernando Pessoa, both alluding the question of "self" and "the others"...and the "others within ourselves". Basically, it's a story about a Swiss teacher,an erudite, of Greek and Latin, who saves a Portuguese woman when she's attempting suicide at a bridge over the Aare, in Bern, Switzerland.So it starts. Raimund Gregorius is fascinated by the way she speaks French, with the Portuguese accent...and it looks he's bound to get to Lisbon, soon. ... Yes, it's 4 a.m. in his Bern apartment and Raimund is set to travel to Lisbon, by train.A twenty six hours trip. He left school. Will send a letter to rector as an explanation. Someone had given him a Portuguese author book, by Amadeu de Prado,a medical doctor. It's a book like Marco Aurelio's reflections. It made the classical philologist buy some CD's to learn the language. He finds the Portuguese people "hasty" like the French, and the sound of the language like a "piccola" flute. But what about the Portuguese woman he saved near the bridge? -he just never saw her again. After the bridge episode, he invited her to his classes...and she left,leaving him with her phone number, only. ... (from the movie) Lausanne,Genève,Lyon...Irun...Lisbon...,during this trip 57-year-old Raimund recalls his love for Hebrew language: his teacher had given him the Book of Job. Also his appreciation for the Greek,with no vanity. So, his languages skills help him to easily decipher the Portuguese book he carried along: Prado's book. He remembers his failed marriage,though wife was once a passionate student of his classes. (from the movie) He'll meet a Portuguese man (Silveira) in the trip who will usher him in the capital-city, booking for him a room, at a hotel. ... In Lisbon,many things start happening, some even making Raimund to ponder a home come back. He falls and gets his glasses broken; gets new ones: hard to adapt to this new look. The "new vision" is, yet, almost miraculous. He even starts thinking about himself, while reading Prado's self-analysis. Prado thought that he was not "arrogant", but he considered that: that was the way people saw him. So, Raimund goes through a similar process of self-mirroring, self-reconsideration. He calls his Greek eyes-doctor about that "décalage" of perceptions; but Doxides doesn't bother about others perceptions not matching his own. Raimund buys new clothes,...but drops the bag with the items; he's not ready for change. ... (Salazar) Book...stores. That's the pleasant part of the city. In a Rossio book store he finds a photo-biography of the dictator Salazar. That's his view of a photo of the Portuguese politician: "black dressed, with a domineering face though not insensible, with a hard look,even fanatical, yet revealing intelligence". Much of the time in Lisbon is dedicated to reading Prado's:"A Goldsmith of the Words"; 1975,dated. (from the movie) But he has the privilege to meet João Eça, an "old man",almost speechless now, spending most of his days studying famous chess matches. J.Eça is the uncle of Mariana Eça, Raimund´s ophthalmologist in Lisbon. (from the movie) She took him once to the other side of the river Tagus, by ferryboat, for a visit to her uncle. João was once a good piano player (especially of Schubert) but when 49, being a communist, got arrested and tortured by the State police. So his hands got deformed....his voice got rusty and he, himself, looking old and sick,in 1974, when Mariana went to get him from jail. After this rendez-vous with History... and Mariana's uncle, Raimund returned to Lisbon and managed to find the bag with the new clothes he had rejected. He bought also a map of the city. It's been six days since the Swiss philologist left Bern; and that day he felt a craving for the old texts, he misses them...starts thinking about returning to Switzerland, taking a flight to Zurich,...and it's a Sunday, no bookstores open...however: Raimund finds solace in Prado's book, just inside the pocket of the new jacket he's wearing. Amadeu Inácio de Almeida Prado:a member of the anti-fascist resistance...yes,anti-Salazar's regime. ... Ten days have elapsed since Raimund left Bern. Raimund, the Papirus, as some mockingly called him at school, got access to the seventeen year old farewell speech of Amadeu. (from the movie) He met with a priest (Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão) who lectured back then at the school Amadeu attended. Raimund is informed the speech is written in Latin; the priest suggested it was “blasphemous”, that way. It’s a speech entitled “ Reverence and aversion regarding God’s word”. Yes, farewell day, Amadeu read it for school members gathered…and he asked for forgiveness at the end; nobody reacted…but a howling dog…and then laughter ensued, recalled the priest. What’s the speech content? Amadeu “loved the cathedrals…and the sound of the organ…and the poetry in the Bible”, but he didn’t like the commandment “love your enemy”; that would preclude revolt against the oppressors, those who, with torture , robbed the soul. (from the movie) Amadeu loved liberty. What a speech…Raimund is amazed; that day after meeting with the priest, the philologist had to visit, again, the school Amadeu frequented; now in ruins; and among the ruins, Raimund will read for three times the speech. That day too, the dead-languages lover, had ordered in a book store two books: one on Persian language and one on Portuguese. The employee had laughed, but Raimund thought: now both languages are equal. ... In previous days Raimund had met with Amadeu’s younger sister Mélodie; before that, with older sister Adriana who showed him Amadeu’s library. Raimund bought a chess board. At the hotel he used to play till late; he even tried variations of the Alekhine match with Bolgoljubow. The Philologist was missing the old glasses and the Greek friend Doxiades; this one told him: “only a philologist takes to-the-letter what people say…when, in fact, some people just talk,…what people say aren’t texts”. Raimund tried calling the phone number the Portuguese woman gave him in Switzerland…but gave up. … From the conversations Raimund had, he got a picture on how was Amadeu in high school. A lot of pages dedicated to his personality description. He was an audacious adventurer; some loved him, some hated him, though. He was like a raw diamond, yet to be lapidated; he “knew a lot of things”…but not how to relax, to let go…or to party. …. (from the movie) The most interesting facts about Amadeu are provided by João Eça. He recalled, when incarcerated, Amadeu used to bring him remedies and books. And, once, even before João got imprisoned, Amadeu said: ”I want to work for the resistance”. By this time he was already a medical doctor, and some of his patients were avoiding him because he had saved, in 1965, the life of the Butcher of Lisbon: a high-ranking officer of the secret police: Rui Luís Mendes. … João Eça recalls “the atheist priest”. Once a priest aspirer, Amadeu became materialist… a medical doctor fascinated by the brain. Raimund and Eça talk about chess: Art in Alekhin; Science in Capablanca and “fight” in Lasker. And they play chess. At the end Eça hides his hands away, so deformed they were….and avoids shaking hands. Raimund had bought for him some Schubert’s records. … (from the movie) ... Amadeu Prado would die of aneurysm…of a collapse…while having a “promenade” in a street (Rua Augusta) of Lisbon, at 6 a.m. …. (from the movie) Raimund Gregorius has been for three weeks in Lisbon. Certainly, a marking period with Prado’s relatives …and Prado’s book. Then he returns to Bern. Meets with pupils: he’s been replaced at school. Gregorius will play chess again with Greek friend Doxiades. While he’s heading towards the clinic of his friend he recalls Prado’s quote:” Life is not THAT which we live, it’s THAT what we imagine living”. It’s about time for me to ascribe 4 ½ stars to the book of Mercier, aka Bieri; partly due to the careful and well-researched view on the Portuguese. Post scriptum: Prado is a fictional character, a product of Bieri's (a philosopher’s) imagination. Don't look after Prado's book: it's a fiction too. *now a movie too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6z3adm... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GabAC... http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/kino/bil... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OubLar...#!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bryant

    The hype for this book (over two million copies sold) is inexplicable. Although the central character Gregorius is a classical linguist with a supposedly impregnable gift for recognizing and treasuring beautiful poetry, the entire story here hinges on his suddenly fleeing his life in pursuit of an elusive and patently insipid author named Amadeu Prado. Prado's bathetic meditations fill the pages of this novel: a source of continual inspiration for Gregorius, these sections were a source of The hype for this book (over two million copies sold) is inexplicable. Although the central character Gregorius is a classical linguist with a supposedly impregnable gift for recognizing and treasuring beautiful poetry, the entire story here hinges on his suddenly fleeing his life in pursuit of an elusive and patently insipid author named Amadeu Prado. Prado's bathetic meditations fill the pages of this novel: a source of continual inspiration for Gregorius, these sections were a source of almost sickening agitation for me. Gregorius is so flatly rendered that at times he seems nothing more than a chalkboard on which the unoriginal thoughts of Prado are scratched. In the process of searching for Prado, Gregorius becomes entangled with a cache of indistinguishable, hastily sketched characters who are themselves mouthpieces for Prado, whose chalky shadow ultimately adumbrates any redeeming light this book might enjoy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    I noticed that this book evokes very different reactions, from admiration to disgust, and oddly enough, this is also one of the themes of the book: how different the perception of people can be, especially about each other; close friends, partners, even very close family can see or feel each other fundamentally 'wrong'. Pascal Mercier (pseudonym of Swiss philosopher Peter Bieri) has written a philosophical book, but packaged as an exciting story in a concrete setting, in the line of Voltaire's I noticed that this book evokes very different reactions, from admiration to disgust, and oddly enough, this is also one of the themes of the book: how different the perception of people can be, especially about each other; close friends, partners, even very close family can see or feel each other fundamentally 'wrong'. Pascal Mercier (pseudonym of Swiss philosopher Peter Bieri) has written a philosophical book, but packaged as an exciting story in a concrete setting, in the line of Voltaire's Candide and Eco's The Name of the Rose. That setting, - Lisbon, the Portuguese language and Portuguese history (especially that of the Salazar dictatorship, 1932-1968) -, offers a particularly charming and interesting framework for what is actually a quest: the quest of the dull teacher of classic languages Raimund - Mundus - Gregorius (nice nod, that first name for someone who by the standards of our time is truly otherworldly) for the Portuguese doctor Amadeus de Prado, from whom he has found an intriguing little book full of life wisdom. That quest brings him to Lisbon and gradually also to relatives and friends of de Prado, who has now been dead for 30 years. They all seem to have known a piece of his life and to have a very fragmentary picture of who he actually was; in his booklet de Prado constantly wonders what the relationship is between the inner and the outer, between the own image and that of the others. It is a theme that is central to the work of the famous Portuguese writer Pessoa (many of the Prado's writings resemble those of Pessoa, and at the beginning of the book there’s is also a motto taken from him). Along with excerpts from the book, we gradually gain a more complete picture (or so we think) of Amadeus de Prado, as a complex, but impressive personality who struggled with many fundamental questions and certainly at two moments in his life had to make a nearly impossible moral choice: when he was confronted as a doctor with the "executioner of Lisbon" and when the resistance against Salazar wanted to eliminate one of its own members because of a security threat. Here the author presents us with a second philosophical theme, that of making decisive choices, of choosing between impossible options. Mercier (or better Bieri) clearly distances himself from the stoicism of Montaigne, the French 16th century writer, from whom is also included a motto at the beginning of the book. In this book the message is: everyone must take charge of his own life, by making choices and daring to live with the consequences; disappointment or failure are not a shame, but actually make life fully livable; and in a sense so does death: death alone gives meaning and beauty to life, and also to the darker side of it. Mercier/Bieri has incorporated more philosophical issues, such as the linguistic nature of the reality in which we live, but not all of them are well developed. That’s also the case for the story itself: that is quite exciting and well built, but surely towards the end the story lines flatten, and not all twists and turns are equally credible. I now also saw the movie version (Night Train to Lisbon, with a brilliant Jeremy Irons), and although that does not have the philosophical depth of the book, as a story it is managed much better.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: Night Train to Lisbon follows Raimund Gregorius, a fifty-seven-year-old Classics scholar, on a journey that takes him across Europe. Abandoning his job and his life, and travelling with a dusty old book as his talisman, he heads for Lisbon in search of clues to the life of the book's Portuguese author, Amadeu de Prado. As he gets swept up in his quest, he finds that the journey is also one of self-discovery, as he re-encounters all the decisions he has made - and not made - in his Description: Night Train to Lisbon follows Raimund Gregorius, a fifty-seven-year-old Classics scholar, on a journey that takes him across Europe. Abandoning his job and his life, and travelling with a dusty old book as his talisman, he heads for Lisbon in search of clues to the life of the book's Portuguese author, Amadeu de Prado. As he gets swept up in his quest, he finds that the journey is also one of self-discovery, as he re-encounters all the decisions he has made - and not made - in his life, and faces the roads not travelled. When dictatorship is a fact, revolution is a duty. Originally, I had this shelved as 'looked into, decided against', yet the film is there to be plucked from youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKpJF... Pure class. 3.5* From wiki: The Carnation Revolution was initially a military coup in Lisbon, Portugal, on 25 April 1974 which overthrew the authoritarian regime of the Estado Novo. The revolution started as a military coup organized by the Armed Forces Movement (Portuguese: Movimento das Forças Armadas, MFA) composed of military officers who opposed the regime, but the movement was soon coupled with an unanticipated and popular campaign of civil resistance. This movement would lead to the fall of the Estado Novo and the withdrawal of Portugal from its African colonies.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The book suffers from significant problems. The English translation from the German is wooden; the book is too long; the editing is bad (e.g., a Greek word from Homer that is significant to the plot is misread [I hope] from the author's or translator's manuscript and mangled in print); and the endgame is botched (to borrow from the omnipresent chess references that weigh the book down almost as much as the endless poor imitations of Pessoa). The premise had promise, and some of the characters The book suffers from significant problems. The English translation from the German is wooden; the book is too long; the editing is bad (e.g., a Greek word from Homer that is significant to the plot is misread [I hope] from the author's or translator's manuscript and mangled in print); and the endgame is botched (to borrow from the omnipresent chess references that weigh the book down almost as much as the endless poor imitations of Pessoa). The premise had promise, and some of the characters were not without interest (hence my two stars). Nevertheless, I recommend reading Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet for the philosophy, Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet for a novelistic exploration of the role of perspective in creating "truth," and listening to fado for an understanding of the Portuguese soul. Then there will be no need to be disappointed by the wreck of this night train to Lisbon.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This is a book which can be read on different levels! At least for me. I can think about a paragraph and the import of those lines OR I can read it for the story from start to finish. Some lines are priceless. Some lines, I just think: What??!!! I am nearing the end! What is going to happen? It ends perfectly. This book is very philosophical! Definitely not for everyone, and it is kind of wordy, but boy is there a lot to think about..... Some reviewers remark that it is poorly translated from the This is a book which can be read on different levels! At least for me. I can think about a paragraph and the import of those lines OR I can read it for the story from start to finish. Some lines are priceless. Some lines, I just think: What??!!! I am nearing the end! What is going to happen? It ends perfectly. This book is very philosophical! Definitely not for everyone, and it is kind of wordy, but boy is there a lot to think about..... Some reviewers remark that it is poorly translated from the German, the author being Swiss, but I think the lines flow beautifully. There are lines in French which are not translated but the Portuguese is! I bet that those who know Portuguese will delight in those lines. Why? Well, because words have a poetry to them. That is one of the many themes of this book. You remove one word and all the others change their meaning. In this respect, the audiobook format is the one to choose. Sean Barrett does a fine job of narrating the audiobook. An audiobook filled with foreign names, as this one is, is a bit daunting. Perhaps a paper book is easier to follow. In addition, when reading a paper book it is easier to stop and ponder the lines. I don't know how many times I had to stop and rewind, so I had time to think, to figure out what I thought about the philosophical message. I would only recommend this book to a reader who enjoys philosophical meanderings.... about what we want to get from life, our true identities, loyalty and love and friendship. The themes are numerous. I am very, very glad I read this book, and yet I only gave it three stars! That is because not all the lines "worked" for me, but some of them were absolutely, stunningly perfect! I better add, this is a work of fiction. The characters are completely fictional. Except of course the Portuguese dictator, Salazar. I was so moved by the primary message of this book that it has already changed what I want to do in one particular situation, and I believe it will continue to influence my choices in the future. Quite a book! If you live your entire life doing what is safe you do nothing at all.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    Inexplicably bad. Translator's fault, in part? Who knows. I wanted to like - nay, love - this, because an old man at a bar recommended it to me as a book that had changed his life. Instead, I found myself desperate to be done with it. The main character, Gregorius, an uptight teacher of classical languages at a Swiss school, inexplicably quits his job and drops everything after a chance encounter with a mysterious Portuguese woman. Portuguese, you see, is the one language he doesn't know, and he Inexplicably bad. Translator's fault, in part? Who knows. I wanted to like - nay, love - this, because an old man at a bar recommended it to me as a book that had changed his life. Instead, I found myself desperate to be done with it. The main character, Gregorius, an uptight teacher of classical languages at a Swiss school, inexplicably quits his job and drops everything after a chance encounter with a mysterious Portuguese woman. Portuguese, you see, is the one language he doesn't know, and he sets off to pursue it, and her. The language is so grandiose - I believe it has been labeled a 'philosophical novel' - that I found myself laughing in dismay. Sample rhetoric: "Gregorious was never to forget this scene. They were his first Portuguese words in the real world and they worked. That words could cause something in the world, make someone move or stop, laugh or cry: even as a child he had found it enigmatic and it had never stopped impressing him. How did words do that? Wasn't it like magic?" Oomph. Gregorius tries to track down information about his new favorite Portuguese author, who lived during the Salazar dictatorship - it's a bit of an historical scavenger hunt - and since I know almost nothing about that period, it didn't hold much meaning for me. A better book, of course, would have drawn me in anyway, and taught me something. As for my old friend with the recommendation, this makes me worry that he must be having a later-life crisis or something for this drivel to have resonated with him.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

    Coming from a Philosophy professor, I was a bit skeptical to get into the book first, but then I was drawn into the book when the protagonist, Gregorius, also a professor, leaves his stagnant and monotonous life behind on an impulse, and boards a train for Lisbon, to understand the tragic end of a writer. What is the story ? The main character, Raimund Gregorius, is a teacher of classics, who has lead a very tedious life, and that one day, out of the blue, decides to leave his job, go to Lisbon Coming from a Philosophy professor, I was a bit skeptical to get into the book first, but then I was drawn into the book when the protagonist, Gregorius, also a professor, leaves his stagnant and monotonous life behind on an impulse, and boards a train for Lisbon, to understand the tragic end of a writer. What is the story ? The main character, Raimund Gregorius, is a teacher of classics, who has lead a very tedious life, and that one day, out of the blue, decides to leave his job, go to Lisbon and search for the author of a book which seems to ´talk´to him. Raimund is in his mid fifties, and lives involved in a thick existential angst that makes all decisions agonizing. He takes a bold step when he decides to go to Lisbon, but continues living his life with timidity and fear. The plot mixes the mid-life crisis narrative with a reflexion on identity and also with the discovery of the work and life of a mysterious author who is not only a poet but also indulges in philosophical reflexion. The literary character, the author of the book that captivates Raimund, is a doctor poet who was involved in the resistance against the dictatorship and who is described as very gifted. Well, there is suspense in it, but what’s brilliant are the insights into life. For me, it was rewarding, when I took the patience to read it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    I didnt read the book, but watched the eponymous movie. Quiet, slow, mysterious, melancholical. Wonderful coverage of the ending of the Portuguese dictatorship back in the 1970s. Surprise star was Christopher Lee as priest. I didn’t read the book, but watched the eponymous movie. Quiet, slow, mysterious, melancholical. Wonderful coverage of the ending of the Portuguese dictatorship back in the 1970s. Surprise star was Christopher Lee as priest.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    Hard to describe how much I hated this book. Also I thought it was bad. One of those utterly silly, horrendous novels. I quite enjoyed Mercier's other one, Perlmann's Silence, which I picked off the library shelf not knowing anything about the novel or Mercier. (I think there was a blurb on Perlmann's Silence in the New Yorker, but one of those little New Yorker blurbs that says absolutely nothing in four sentences.) Perlmann's Silence was aided by having a plot. Night Train to Lisbon doesn't Hard to describe how much I hated this book. Also I thought it was bad. One of those utterly silly, horrendous novels. I quite enjoyed Mercier's other one, Perlmann's Silence, which I picked off the library shelf not knowing anything about the novel or Mercier. (I think there was a blurb on Perlmann's Silence in the New Yorker, but one of those little New Yorker blurbs that says absolutely nothing in four sentences.) Perlmann's Silence was aided by having a plot. Night Train to Lisbon doesn't really have a plot. The writing style reminded me of Henning Mankell, oddly enough, who wrote the Wallander police procedurals but also branched out into "literary" fiction. But NTtL just galled me, the way it seemed to be fetishizing a certain way of living, thinking, a certain kind of Europeanness. The great man at the center of it - a (fictional) doctor named Amadeu de Prado who lived during the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal - was supposed to be this genius, a brilliant teen prodigy - but his writings - of which there are many excerpts in the novel, way too many - come off as the writings of some inane Oprah guest. I'm going to guess if Deepak Chopra and Elizabeth Gilbert had co-written a novel, this would be it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gerald Sinstadt

    Even those reviewers who could empathise with boring Gregorius, the novel's 'hero,' have had to concede that a lumpen translation and countless errors that passed the spellchecker (but wouldn't have escaped a mildly conscientious proof reader) make this a challenging read. One has to take the publishers' word for it that two million copies have been sold world-wide. It would have been more honest - but probably dangerous - to reveal how many actually read it to the end. Since I reached page 125 Even those reviewers who could empathise with boring Gregorius, the novel's 'hero,' have had to concede that a lumpen translation and countless errors that passed the spellchecker (but wouldn't have escaped a mildly conscientious proof reader) make this a challenging read. One has to take the publishers' word for it that two million copies have been sold world-wide. It would have been more honest - but probably dangerous - to reveal how many actually read it to the end. Since I reached page 125 before giving up, am I more forgiving or more stupid than those who abandoned the book earlier? Meanwhile, is there someone who staggered through to the end who can help me? I need to know about the telephone number the Portuguese woman wrote on Gregorius's forehead (!) in the opening pages. By 125 he hadn't got around to ringing. Seriously worrying is the publishers' attempt to piggy-back on The Shadow of the Wind. Anyone appalled by Night Train to Lisbon who has not read Shadow of the Wind could miss a novel of genuine power and imagination. Shame on you, Atlantic Books.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christie

    I loved this book. It is an intellectual exploration of one man's reevaluation of his life through the discovery of a relatively unknown but very popular Portuguese doctor, later become member of the resistance to the Salizar government. His impetuous travel from his home in Bern to Lisbon, unravel the mystery of what the doctor was all about through his writings, his friends and family, as it builds for the main character an understanding of his own existence and the nature of human I loved this book. It is an intellectual exploration of one man's reevaluation of his life through the discovery of a relatively unknown but very popular Portuguese doctor, later become member of the resistance to the Salizar government. His impetuous travel from his home in Bern to Lisbon, unravel the mystery of what the doctor was all about through his writings, his friends and family, as it builds for the main character an understanding of his own existence and the nature of human relationships.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Quo

    My initial view of Night Train to Lisbon is that the reader is almost forced to follow the pattern of the novel's main character, Raimund Gregorius, attempting to explicate a book much like Raimund did when trying to comprehend the writings of a Portuguese doctor, Amadeu de Prado. Dr. Prado had been active in the resistance against Salazar the Portuguese dictator & Prado's words seized Raimund's imagination, causing him to suddenly flee his secure position as a teacher of classics & to My initial view of Night Train to Lisbon is that the reader is almost forced to follow the pattern of the novel's main character, Raimund Gregorius, attempting to explicate a book much like Raimund did when trying to comprehend the writings of a Portuguese doctor, Amadeu de Prado. Dr. Prado had been active in the resistance against Salazar the Portuguese dictator & Prado's words seized Raimund's imagination, causing him to suddenly flee his secure position as a teacher of classics & to entrain for Lisbon. What causes a divorced man of very fixed habits & in late career, someone who is called "Mundus the myopic bookworm", to take off on such a wild, life-altering tangent is of course a mystery, not unlike the mystery conveyed through the book that details the life of the late Amadeu de Prado. I recalled the words of the author Kazantzakis in the person of his character Zorba, "Everyone needs a little madness or he never dares cut the rope & be free". How was it possible that a man who lived so very methodically could suddenly experience a mid-life or late-in-life crisis and take a plunge into the unknown like the one suggested by the earthy Kazantzakis character? Later, it seemed to dawn on me that what Raimund continues to do after briefly meeting a Portuguese woman on a bridge, someone he never sees again, is not that far distant from what he has been doing for ages, mining old books written in classial languages for shreds of meaning. The book by Amadeu de Prado that Raimund comes upon by chance is not a Greek or Latin classic and not a hieroglyph or some palimpsest full of coded meaning but it quickly preoccupies him and almost trance-like, Raimund is on board a train & en route to Lisbon, with nary a thought about his stable past life nor any consideration about his future. The novel does attempt to probe the motivation to change course in life & to comprehend the forces that determine behavior, as when he reads from a Prado letter: I start trembling at the thought of the unplanned & unknown but inevitable & unstoppable force with which parents leave traces in their children that, like traces of branding, can never be erased. The outlines of parental will & fear are written with a white-hot stylus in the souls of children who are helpless & ignorant of what is happening to them. We need a whole life to find & decipher the branded text & we can never be sure that we have understood it. Raimund's enchantment with the life of Amadeu de Prado, who had enjoyed a brilliant childhood, causes him to work at translating the thoughts of the man, while pursuing clues to the man's later life in Lisbon, always it seems in search of deeper meaning about the moral decisions that had been made & which ultimately determined Dr. Prado's fate. Oddly perhaps, it is never quite clear what makes Raimund so passionate about his mission or what lessons he draws from his personal excavation of the man's life. There is more than a little resemblance in Night Train to Paris to the work of Jose Saramago, Portuguese Nobel laureate, especially in his The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis and both Pascal Mercier, this book's author and Saramago seem to be influenced by Portugal's Fernando Pessoa, a writer who used what are termed heteronyms to give voice to competing artistic spirits. In fact, there is a quote from Pessoa at the beginning of Mercier's novel that might be seen as a kind of preamble, suggesting that "in the vast colony of our being, there are many species of people who think & feel in different ways." This novel is slow-moving, even plodding at times, as well as a bit didactic in places & I can understand why some readers dismissed it as being overly long & not worthy of so much energy, even if not without some merit. It is less clear why Night Train to Lisbon seems so acclaimed in Europe but not nearly as well regarded in North America. Does this reflect a different pace of life in Europe vs. America or might it also be a result of the seemingly muddled translation from the German, with many odd & even misguided phrasings? Still, there is very much to like about the story of a man who expresses that "given that we can only live a small part of what there is within us, what happens to the rest?" The answer to this mystery might very well be that Raimund Gregorious decided to give vent to a corner of himself never previously allowed expression while attempting to transform himself in Portugal.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    One afternoon the most reliable of the professors at a Bern university walks out on his class. This is the result of a chance encounter the same morning. The same Raimund Gregorious - Mundus - also bought a book by an uknown Portuguese aristocrat, in a language he didn't know. He travels to Lisbon to try to find out more about the strange author and falls into the past, into a web of old family expectations. The book is an exploration on how to live life to the fullest, of language, of the One afternoon the most reliable of the professors at a Bern university walks out on his class. This is the result of a chance encounter the same morning. The same Raimund Gregorious - Mundus - also bought a book by an uknown Portuguese aristocrat, in a language he didn't know. He travels to Lisbon to try to find out more about the strange author and falls into the past, into a web of old family expectations. The book is an exploration on how to live life to the fullest, of language, of the weight of expectations. This novel explores the fleetingness of our human existence and furthermore, of that which makes up "ourselves". "We are stratified creatures, creatures full of abysses, with a soul of inconstant quicksilver, with a mind whose color and shape change as in a kaleidoscope that is constantly shaken" according to Pascal Mercier, or at least, that of his creation, the mysterious aristocrat Amadeu de Prado. This is a thoughtful, insightful and fairly original read. The best book I've read in a few months. The translation is not the best and particularly the beginning is faltering to the point of being annoying. It improves, or rather, the failures of the text gets lost in the compelling story.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Richard Newton

    At times beautifully written and profound, but in the end I found the book a little frustrating and unsatisfying. This is an ambitious book - about many different things - you can read it for the story itself or see it as a book about relationships and the search for meaning in life, but you could interpret it differently. I found it to be about too many different things, and some of the possible story-lines are opened up, and then go nowhere. The main story-line is intriguing, and initially it At times beautifully written and profound, but in the end I found the book a little frustrating and unsatisfying. This is an ambitious book - about many different things - you can read it for the story itself or see it as a book about relationships and the search for meaning in life, but you could interpret it differently. I found it to be about too many different things, and some of the possible story-lines are opened up, and then go nowhere. The main story-line is intriguing, and initially it is compulsive reading, but three quarters of the way through I started to weary. In the end I found the two main characters, whilst wonderfully described, as unbelievable. Additionally, the way the one of the main characters is invited into lots of stranger's lives who openly share intimate details of their own lives seemed non-credible. However, I think this is a very personal view and I can understand why others find it wonderful. I will probably try other books by the author.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    This book bored me hence I gave up on page 244. Frankly a tale of a man who flees is home country holes up in a hotel and does next to nothing is my definition of tedium. A cycle of visit café visit dusty bookshop interview disgruntled person followed by coffee and bed is not my idea of an interesting book. The philosophical musings a felt were not that profound either; all in all a dull dry and tedious book that has been vastly overrated by some.

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