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

3.8 out of 5 stars 222 customer reviews

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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 the Paperback edition.
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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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A German friend of mine recommended this book. In Germany, it has been a great hit. I was hooked from the start. If you like foreign movies, dramas, listening to people, and don't crave only movies with special effects, multi-sensory input, and the fantasy of multi-tasking, this book might be exactly what you'd like to curl up with on a chilly Sunday morning or night.

It starts out with a stodgy classics professor who is walking home on his regular route. He lives a life of routine, rarely examining what, why or how. On this walk home, he meets a woman in distress, throwing some papers off a bridge. This event is the beginning of a change in his life. He also stops in a bookstore and the owner gives him a beautiful, self-published book by a Portuguese doctor named Prado. The book is this man's epiphany. He wants to know Prado, really KNOW Prado. He takes the night train to Lisbon, and so the search begins.

As the author is a philosophy professor in Berlin (or so the book jacket states), there is quite a bit of philosophical journeying in this book of fiction. I loved it. I loved every page. I hardly ever mark up my fiction books but I found myself high-lighting phrases and re-reading passages. The search, the mystery, the events, the people, the journeying outward and inward all serve to make this book a modern masterpiece.
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Format: Hardcover
I found myself deeply engaged in this book, curious to follow the adventure of Gregorious on his late-middle life journey, literal--to Portugal from Switzerland where this master linguist did not know the language, and metaphorical--to new realms of self knowledge as he sought to understand the author, Prado, of a book of meditations that so touched his life. Equally, I was curious to follow the unfolding of the heroic life of Prado, a brilliant thinker and physician who juggled duty and dutiful rebellion under the repressive regime of Portugal's Salazar. Gregorious learns that repression need not be external, nor that external repression need not be internalized.

For me, this was one of those rare books which I took my time to read and to savor, for it became quite personal for me, and I did not really want it to end.
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