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Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel Paperback – October 15, 2008
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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)
- Item Weight : 1.04 pounds
- Paperback : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0802143970
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802143976
- Product Dimensions : 5.51 x 1.22 x 8.24 inches
- Publisher : Grove Press; Reprint Edition (October 15, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #236,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Many Americans did not like this book, they thought it was slow and too philosophical. It is an overwhelmingly philosophical book but despite being a bit slow I found the prose of this book intoxicatingly beautiful. Amadeu Prado, the main character is a man tormented and torn between his own yearnings and desires and the very high expectations his family (especially his father) placed on him. Gregorius found his book in an old Spanish bookshop in Bern, Switzerland where he works as a teacher of Ancient languages. He leaves in the middle of the lesson and without much planning is bound on a trip to Portugal that will lead him to discover almost everything about the life of Prado. In a way is a journey of self discovery as he learns more about the troubled life of Prado and what lead to his untimely death. Prado studied Medicine because his father wanted him to become a respected and prestigious Doctor but his true desire was to Study Literature and Philosophy. He questioned how different his life would have been had he follow his heart instead of doing what was expected of him. Growing up and living in the Portugal of the dictator Salazar he also questioned the existence of God and resented his father for working as a judge for the regime. I found this book fascinating because like Prado and many people around the world I have questioned myself about certains choices I've made throughout my life. It is a wonderful book but it is not meant for people who like light or what I call "fluffy" reading. This book is for enquiring minds and for people who appreciate the unfolding of a good story, albeit a slow one.
The premise of the plot seemed improbable. An older teacher of ancient languages in Bern Switzerland walks out of his classroom in the middle of class in pursuit of a young Portuguese women he had just prevented from killing herself. He buys a book she was carrying written by a doctor in Lisbon. It is an introspective, self examining, philosophical soul searching journal. His object of pursuit shifts from the young woman to the author of the book. He packs his bag and takes a night train to Lisbon.
But the story pulled me in. The narrator learns immediately on arrival in Lisbon that the author he seeks is 30 years dead. The book is about the narrator's search to learn about what kind of man the author was that could have such a powerful impact on him to cause him to walk away from his life in pursuit of a stranger.
The book contains long passages from the book and other writings by the doctor that he comes across. The narrator meets most of people the doctor writes about.
With an intellectual teacher in pursuit of understanding a sensitive, gifted author the book is inevitably often about philosophy and self examination, stated or implied. That might turn off a number of readers but I pressed on. The movie leaves all the philosophy out and focuses on character's interaction in flashbacks of the past.
Toward the end, the philosophizing seemed to become too much and the intellectual elements sort of fell apart for me.
The ending of the book and the movie are polar opposites. If you want a story which contains a lot of inner self-examination and philosophizing, read the book. If you want the same story told as a straightforward romantic tale of love, struggle against evil, friendship, family, betrayal and loss see the movie. If you enjoy comparing and contrasting how the same story is told in the two media forms as I do, you will enjoy both.
Top reviews from other countries
The central character, Raimund Gregorius, is a classics lecturer in Switzerland. He's middle-aged and gentle but also utterly reliable. So, when he just walks out of his class one day his life, and the lives of those who know him, change forever. He sets out on an accidental journey of discovery about the author of a book he has come across. His journey leads him to discoveries about himself and others.
This is a thought-provoking book, there were times when I had to just sit and think before I could read on. There were times when it made laugh and also cry. It is, probably, the most intellectually stimulating book I've read over recent months and will be one that will remain on my bookshelf. I feel sure that I will want to read it again.
The novel starts off well - a fussy, ageing teacher of the Classics in a Swiss school (he should really be a prof in a top university, in his and in the opinion of the author), walks out of his classroom having seemingly prevented a young Portuguese woman from killing herself (who among teachers and lecturers has not at some time felt like walking out, never to return?). He finds a book in the pocket of her coat and sets of for Lisbon to find-out more about the author, who played a minor part in the anti-Salazar resistance. Here authorial-intrusion takes over - if you have recently been reading Kant, Schopenhauer, Santayana (no relation to Carlos - different spelling anyway), there is a small chance that you will take to his work. If you have come to it, like this reviewer, from the film, there is a big chance you will hate it. Literature is replete with works that have dealt with profound philosophical questions while at the same time keeping the reader enthralled - think of some of Thomas Mann's works; Hugo does it by concealing the moral and other dilemmas in the actions and words of believable characters, while telling a story. In the later 20th century, no one has done it better (in English) than Anthony Burgess. Ultimately this is a disappointing novel. Not only that, on a 'quality control' issue: the Kindle edition is replete with typos and/or a translation that is clumsy in the extreme. Recommendation: since not enough is told about the Salazar dictatorship (in the Uk), the film is a good introduction to the brutality in which our government was complicit.
Having struggled against the barred gates of traditional publishing for a few years I am almost shocked that this beautiful book ever saw the light of day.
It moves very slowly.
Can i t be that European readers have become more discerning that Anglo-Saxon ones?
That they have a longer attention span?
That they will persevere with the charm alone?
I warn you if you like a fast pace you wont like it.
But if you like great characters and beautiful writing, you will.
There is no way this would have made it past the gatekeepers in UK or US to see publication