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Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel Hardcover – December 21, 2007


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My Struggle: Book Four
Eighteen-year-old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fishing village in the Arctic Circle to work as a school teacher. As the nights get longer, the shadow cast by his father's own sharply increasing alcohol consumption, also gets longer. Read the full description
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (December 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802118585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802118585
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Swiss novelist Mercier's U.S. debut, Raimund Gregorius is a gifted but dull 57-year-old high school classical languages teacher in Switzerland. After a chance meeting with a Portuguese woman in the rain, he discovers the work of a Portuguese poet and doctor, Amadeu de Prado, persecuted under Salazar's regime. Transfixed by the work, Gregorius boards a train for Lisbon, bent on discovering Prado's fate and on uncovering more of his work. He returns to the sites of Prado's life and interviews the major players—Prado's sisters, lovers, fellow resistors and estranged best friend—and begins to lose himself. The artful unspooling of Prado's fraught life is richly detailed: full of surprises and paradoxes, it incorporates a vivid rendering of the Portuguese resistance to Salazar. The novel, Mercier's third in Europe, was a blockbuster there. Long philosophical interludes in Prado's voice may not play as well in the U.S., but the book comes through on the enigmas of trying to live and write under fascism. (Jan.)
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Review

"'A treat for the mind. One of the best books I have read in a long time.' Isabel Allende" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I found this book fascinating and very well written.
M. E. Bannister
What a wonderful novel, thought provoking and beautiful, about the power of language and it's ability to draw out the mysterious depths of a human life.
Craig D. Phillipson
A long read for sure, but worth not giving up on despite a conclusion that I found to be to open ended and left too much for interpretation.
Martin Mulcahey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Nim Sudo on February 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'll admit that the book might not sound that interesting. A schoolteacher having a sort of midlife crisis picks up a book of philosophical essays that somehow speak to him that were written by a Portuguese doctor who died 30 years ago, drops everything in his life, starts to learn Portuguese and translate the book, and travels to Lisbon to interview people who knew the writer. The writer was an intense personality who made a deep impression on the people around him, who are more than happy to talk about him, if only to bring him back to life a little through their reminiscences. As the book progresses, layers are pulled back and the protagonist penetrates deeper into the life and thoughts of the writer, eventually coming to understand his tragic end.

As dull as the book may sound, I couldn't put it down. I found it to be a thought-provoking meditation on life, arranged in such a way that one was eager to see what would happen next. At the same time I can understand why there were a number of negative reviews here. This book has a kind of European sensibility to it that might not appeal to the typical American audience. But if you are looking for something a bit different, I recommend giving it a try.

Note: I read the original, not the translation. The language of the original seemed to me to be kind of fancy and a bit overblown, and thus perhaps hard to translate without losing some of its elegance. But I glanced at the translation and it at least seemed pretty readable.
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108 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Craig D. Phillipson on February 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm a bit surprised by some of the negative reviews this book is getting. What a wonderful novel, thought provoking and beautiful, about the power of language and it's ability to draw out the mysterious depths of a human life. Mercier has created such a haunting character in Mundus, his anxieties about the future and the past are heartbreaking and all too familiar. I found it to be thouroughly engrossing, one of the best written novels i've read in quite some time; emotional, romantic, evocative, and- unlike some novels of its kind- not preachy, but searching, earnest. It possesses such a sadness and such a hope... in a world where entertainment ((even the novel nowadays, what a shame)) is so deeply mired in 'what happens next', Night Train to Lisbon's unapologetic introspection is a welcome change of pace.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By C. Ritacca on August 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was overwhelmed by this book. It is a psychological novel that explores one man experiencing a sudden change of heart about the meaning of his circumspect life. He finds a book that speaks to his deadened soul and searches out details of the author's life in a quest to know about someone who might have found the way to a meaningful life.
My response to this book reminds me of my response to the great novelists Solzhenitsyn or Dostoevsky. I am admittedly a middle aged introspective and idealistic person with the past experience of having my moorings suddenly cut. My flailing about in an effort to then find meaning in a life suddenly without the solidity of my belief in family, marriage and church was painful and illuminating. This book described my interior experience. Besides appreciating the echo of my experience, I loved the prose, the place descriptions and the meandering plot line. This book understands the random beauty of life and of relationships.
Although I read this book as a library loaner, I must have a copy for my library.
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137 of 161 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on May 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Published in German in 2004, Pascal Mercier's NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON only just reached our shores in an English translation this year. Hailed as an international literary sensation (over two million copies sold worldwide) and blurbed nearly into the Western literary canon on its dust jacket, this book will almost certainly garner a collective yawn from those Americans who open its covers. Most, I suspect, will likely never finish. They will instead discover that what looks to be a mysterious story of spies and resistance to ruthless dictatorship is something far less and so slow to develop they may want to sue the reviewer from Germany's Die Welt who blurbed, "One reads this book almost breathlessly, and can hardly put it down..." One can only imagine this line being recited by Mike Myers in an old SNL Sprockets skit.

Not to say that NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON is without its merits. However, one needs to approach this book with a certain tolerance and patience as well as a literary frame of mind, comparable perhaps to tackling something by Stendahl or Henry James or Edith Wharton. The story line is of itself simple enough, if rather improbable. Raimund Gregorius is a lifelong instructor of ancient languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew) at the same Swiss lycee in Bern where he himself had been a student. Nicknamed satirically as Mundus by his students and derisively as "the Papyrus" by his Gymnasium colleagues, Gregorius is Mr. Chips writ large: divorced, dryly unemotional, sheltered, over-intellectualized - more a walking dictionary than a human being, and reaching his life's end.

Crossing a bridge on his way to the lycee on morning, he approaches a mysterious young woman who appears to be contemplating suicide. She steps back, only to write a phone number on the teacher's forehead.
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