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Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel Paperback – October 15, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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One of the most thoughtful and entertaining novels to come out of Europe in a decade . . . a smart, heartfelt, thoroughly enjoyable book written for thinking adults, and the most recent incarnation, from Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf right down to Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, of that potent, ever-popular myththe book that changes your life. . . . Go ahead and buy this onebelieve me, you'll want to read it more than once.”Nick Dimartino, Shelf Awareness
One reads this book almost breathlessly, can’t put it down . . . A handbook for the soul, intellect and heart.”Die Welt (Germany)
A treat for the mind. One of the best books I have read in a long time.” Isabel Allende
This beautiful book lit like a fuse that snaked its way into my consciousness, sending out sparklers of light that made me feel more alive, more awake, for days. I hated to see it come to an end. What more can one ask?” Maya Muir, The Oregonian
A book so intent on answering the larger questions of existence that if readers give it a chance, it could be life-altering. A brilliant book that manages to excite the mind and the heart in equal measure.” Betsy Burton, The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT
Challenges the reader, both intellectually and philosophically. . . . I was hookedI read the book in no more than two sittings.” Bruce Tierney, BookPage
Might call to mind the magical realism of Jorge Amado or Gabriel Garcia Marquez . . . allusive and thought-provoking, intellectually curious and yet heartbreakingly jaded. . . . Its lyricism and aura of the mysterious only enhance the tale’s clear-sighted confrontation with the enduring questions.” Tony Lewis, The Providence Journal
Rich, dense, star-spangled . . . The novels of Robert Stone come to mind, and Elias Canetti’s Auto-da-Fe, and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, and Kobo Abe’s The Ruined Map, not to mention Marcus Aurelius and Wittgenstein. . . [but] what Night Train to Lisbon really suggests is Roads to Freedom, Jean-Paul Sartre’s breathless trilogy about identity-making.” John Leonard, Harper’s Magazine
Celebrates the beauty and allure of language . . . adroitly addresses concepts of sacrifice, secrets, memory, loneliness, infatuation, tyranny, and translation. It highlights how little we know about others.” Tony Miksanek, Chicago Sun-Times
The text of Amadeu’s writing is filled not with mere nuggets of wisdom but with a mother lode of insight, introspection, and an honest, self-conscious person’s illuminations of all the dark corners of his own soul. . . . Mercier has captured a time in historyone of time timeswhen men must take a stand.” Valerie Ryan, The Seattle Times
Dreamlike . . . A meditative, deliberate exploration of loneliness, language and the human condition . . . The reader is transported and, like Gregorius, better for having taken the journey.” Debra Ginsberg, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Readers will be rewarded . . . by the involving, unpredictable, and well-constructed plot and Mercier’s virtuosic orchestration of a large and memorable cast of characters. As the stories of Gregorius and de Prado draw together, this becomes a moving meditation on the defining moments in our lives, the silent explosions that change everything.” Forest Turner, Library Journal
The age-old intellectual’s dilemma, considered in a compelling blend of suspenseful narrative and discursive commentary . . . an intriguing fiction.” Kirkus Reviews
A meditative novel that builds an uncanny power through a labyrinth of memories and philosophical concepts that illuminate the narrative from within. . . . a remarkable immediacy that makes for a rare reading pleasure.” San Francisco Chronicle
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 . . . . comes through on the enigmas of trying to live and write under fascism.” Publishers Weekly
One of the great European novels of the past few years.” Page des libraires (France)
A book of astonishing richness . . . a visionary writer . . . a deserved international smash.” Le Canard enchaîné (France)
The stuff of fine fiction . . . has the coloration and feel of Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams or Peter Handke’s Crossing the Sierra de Gredos.” The Morning News
This novel taps into some of the oldest veins of story, the primal ones of night journeys, of being stuck in place, yet adrift, and confused about life's purpose. It is full of people who have lived, even as the fullness of that is revealed only in the protagonist's drawing out of their stories. I'm not sure how much this book might teach us how to live, but it has reminded me of what it is to really read.” Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA, Book Sense quote
As mesmerizing and dreamlike as a Wong Kar-wai film, with characters as strange and alienated as any of the filmmaker’s . . . Mercier . . . is a master at mixing ideas and plot. . . . Prado’s ruminative autobiography [is] reminiscent of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations or Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. . . . unforgettable moments of crystalline, even poetic, insight.” Bookforum
A sensation. The best book of the last ten years . . . A novel of incredible clarity and beauty.” Bücher (Germany)
Powerful, serious, and brilliant . . . constitutes one of the true revelations of this season.” L’Humanité (France)
Impressive . . . a life lesson and a model of lucidity.” La Quinzaine (France)
Mercier draws together all the big existential questions in this masterful novel. . . . visionary.” Volkskrant (Netherlands)
Mercier has erected a monument to literature. And he has done it wonderfully, with the full weight of his philosophical knowledge.” La Stampa (Italy)
Absolutely recommended.” De Telegraaf (Netherlands)
A novel for people with great expectations for literature . . . written with brilliance, incomparable talent and obvious artistic power, and a wide knowledge of the human nature, mind, and soul.” Berlingske Tidende (Denmark)
Taps into some of the oldest veins of story, the primal ones of night journeys, of a distant land, of being stuck in-place, and yet adrift . . . Pascal Mercier does all of this and more, masterfully, alertly, intelligently. . . . I’m not sure how much this book might teach any of us how to livethat’s for anyone to decidebut it has helped remind this reader of what it is to really read.”Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book CompanyContains style, narrative richness and philosophy . . . I read it in three nights. Then I was convinced to change my life.” Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany)
A serious and beautiful book about the examined life.” Le Monde (France)
Mercier has founded a new artistic tradition in the novel.” La Quinzaine littéraire (France)
A book in which poetry and philosophy are intimately intertwined.” Tages-Anzeiger (Switzerland)
Both philosophical and spell-binding . . . a novel to absorb . . . One and a half million German readers can’t be wrong: Philosophy can go to the heart!” Politiken (Denmark)
An existentialist novel with a post-modern view of the self, a well-researched taste of the magical city Lisbon, but also a searching picture of an unusual and rarely described protagonist’s life in it’s most appalling and life-affirming phase.” Nordjyske Stiftstidende (Denmark)
Exceptional . . . a thriller of a philosophical novel. You cheat yourself by not bringing this book with you for the holiday.” Weekendavisen (Denmark)
Beautiful . . . An elegant narrative of the exploration of one human being by another. . . . throw[s] as much light as it seems possible on the inexhaustible question: What does it mean to be a human being, and to what extent can we know each otherand ourselves?” Børsen (Denmark)
You are not the same person you were before you started reading. This is very likely the biggest compliment you can give a noveland this book deserves it.” Kristeligt Dagblad (Denmark)
An intense novel, an initiation into the interior life for refined palates.” La Repubblica (Italy)
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Watched the movie then read the book and insisted it be the hardbound one to keep.Published 9 days ago by Maria Lourdes Barcelon Locsin
It has very good moments. But as a whole it lacks the roundness of the great literature. Good but not great.Published 2 months ago by Agustin Gutierrez Carro
Another life dramatically and poetically cast into his own forces an opening to a personal dialogue and understanding with his own soul.Published 3 months ago by fndtn357
Even though I have been reading this book for over a year (with quite a few in between) I sill love it (nearly finished! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Genevieve Salter