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Night Train to Lisbon (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Pascal Mercier , Barbara Harshav
3.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (4 commentaires client)

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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com

Reviewed by Jonathan Yardley

According to its American publisher, Night Train to Lisbon has rung up "over two million copies sold worldwide" and has been lavishly reviewed throughout Europe. Pascal Mercier is a professor of philosophy who writes under a pen name -- his real name is Peter Bieri -- and, obviously, a person of intelligence and erudition, qualities that are evident throughout this novel. But though it is being launched in this country with more energy and enthusiasm than are generally mustered for works of fiction in translation, my hunch is that this will be yet another European bestseller met with indifference on this side of the Atlantic.

It's a strange book. Its protagonist, Raimund Gregorius, is 57 years old, a professor of dead languages at a secondary school -- a "gymnasium" -- in Switzerland. He is set in his ways and most unlikely to change them:

"Mundus, the most reliable and predictable person in this building and probably in the whole history of the school, working here for more than thirty years, impeccable in his profession, a pillar of the institution, a little boring perhaps, but respected and even feared in the university for his astounding knowledge of ancient languages, mocked lovingly by his students who put him to the test every year by calling him in the middle of the night and asking him about the conjecture for a remote passage in an ancient text, only to get every time off the top of his head information that was both dry and exhaustive, including a critical commentary with other possible meanings, all of it presented perfectly and calmly without a soupçon of anger at the disturbance -- Mundus, a man with an impossibly old-fashioned, even archaic first name you simply had to abbreviate, and couldn't abbreviate any other way, an abbreviation that revealed the character of the man as no other word could have, for what he carried around in him as a philologist was in fact no less than a whole world, or rather several whole worlds, since along with those Latin and Greek passages, his head also held the Hebrew that had amazed several Old Testament scholars."

He is comfortable with words, with texts, far less comfortable with people. His childless marriage ended several years ago. Now he lives alone in a drab apartment, talks from time to time with his friend Constantine Doxiades, wears heavy eyeglasses and assumes that the rest of his days will be spent in exactly the same way. Then, on his way to the school on a rainy morning, he is stopped in the street by a woman who writes a telephone number on his forehead with a felt-tipped pen. He is startled but recovers, and in their brief encounter before she disappears he learns that her native language is Portuguese. He feels his life changing. He goes to a Spanish bookstore, where he is drawn to a book called A Goldsmith of Words, by Amadeu de Prado. The dealer, who "found it last year in the junk box of a secondhand bookshop in Lisbon," presents it to him as a gift. The book is in Portuguese, which he does not know, but he obtains a dictionary and laboriously sets about reading it, learning a new language in the process.

As he immerses himself in the book, Gregorius recalls the words of Marcus Aurelius: "Do wrong to thyself, do wrong to thyself, my soul; but later thou wilt no longer have the opportunity of respecting and honoring thyself. For every man has but one life. But yours is nearly finished, though in it you had no regard for yourself but placed thy felicity in the souls of others. . . . But those who do not observe the impulses of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy." He realizes that the chance encounter with the woman and the gift of the book are omens that cannot be ignored. He tells himself that "I'd like to make something different out of my life," that "my time is running out and there may not be much more of it left."

So he quits the school, closes up his apartment, and takes a night train to Lisbon to search for Amadeu de Prado. It isn't an easy journey, since he has spasms of doubt about this "crackpot idea" and more than once thinks to turn back, but he persists. Continuing to work his way through Prado's book, he learns that the author was a doctor, a "poet and a language mystic who had taken up arms and fought against Salazar," the dictator who had kept Portugal under his thumb for four decades beginning in the 1930s. He comes to realize that "I'd like to know what it was like to be him," or at least "what it is like when you imagined being the other person." He wonders: "Was it possible that the best way to make sure of yourself was to know and understand someone else? One whose life had been completely different and had had a completely different logic than your own? How did curiosity for another life go together with the awareness that your own time was running out?"

Prado is dead, of an aneurysm, and so is his wife, but there are others who have survived. The first important one whom Gregorius meets is Prado's fierce sister Adriana, who, since her brother's death, "had lived alone in this house for thirty-one years, thirty-one years alone with the memories and the emptiness left behind by the brother." When her brother was alive, she had been "a dragon, a dragon who protected Amadeu," and now she is the guardian of his memory, preserving his bedroom and office exactly as they were when he occupied them.

There is João Eça, "a tortured victim of the Salazar regime" who knew Prado in the resistance and treasured him as "the godless priest," a man devoid of conventional religious belief yet who "thought things through to the end. He always thought them through to the end, no matter how black the consequences were." There is Maria João, "the great, untouched love" of Prado's life, who is now past 80 but still possesses "such inconspicuous and yet such perfect confidence and independence." There is Prado's younger sister, Mélodie, "a word invented for her, for her presence was as beautiful and fleeting as a melody, everybody fell in love with her, nobody could hold on to her." There is Estefânia Espinhosa, brilliant and beautiful, who had been Prado's "chance to finally leave the courthouse, go out to the free, hot square of life, and live for this one time completely according to his wish, to his passion, and to hell with others," but whom Prado could not bring himself to love because she was involved, however half-heartedly, with his best friend.

Et cetera. Slowly, Amadeu de Prado's portrait takes shape. As João Eça puts it, he was "a walking paradox: self-confident and of fearless demeanor, but also one who constantly felt the look of others on him and suffered from it. . . . Amadeu, he was the most loyal person in the universe, loyalty was his religion." In sum, a difficult and complicated man, but an admirable one who shared Gregorius's attachment to words but was also a man of action.

All of which is interesting enough, but in a rather clinical way. One problem with Night Train to Lisbon is that its plot, if plot is the word for it, consists almost entirely of talk -- talk, talk, talk -- about people and events in the past. The effect of this endless conversation is numbing rather than stimulating. The subject of seeking a new life is rich, as innumerable American novels have made plain, but it's never really clear here whether the central story belongs to Gregorius or to Prado, and there's scarcely a hint of dramatic tension as Gregorius stumbles his way toward what he learns about Prado. Possibly, Mercier's American publisher thinks that his fiction offers the kind of intellectual puzzles and trickery that many readers love in the work of Umberto Eco, but there are no such pleasures to be found here. Night Train to Lisbon never engages the reader, in particular never makes the reader care about Gregorius. It's an intelligent book, all right, but there's barely a breath of life in it.

Copyright 2008, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1144 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 442 pages
  • Editeur : Atlantic Books (1 mai 2009)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B0040QE39Y
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 3.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (4 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°67.522 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Commentaires en ligne

3.5 étoiles sur 5
3.5 étoiles sur 5
Meilleurs commentaires des clients
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 superb reading 10 septembre 2009
having found this book by chance, it has revealed as a fantastic read. The story itself is not important, but the phrasing, the careful wording makes it literature-wonder. At least it is book without blood, murder sex or terror and war, but a book about values that some of us, maybe most of us, have forgotten. I hope that Mr Mercier will reward us soon with another book or story with that serenity, although I think it will be difficult to surpass. Congratulations!!!
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4.0 étoiles sur 5 Philosophical, profound and intriguing 10 septembre 2015
Par Haidji
The main character, Gregorius, teaches classical languages at a Swiss lycée, and lives a life governed by routine.
One day, he comes into possession of a book, written by Prado, a deceased Portuguese aristocrat. Deeply absorbed by Prado's philosophical writings he changes his life in order to discover more about him. He takes the train to Lisbon that same night, exploring Prado's life during Antonio de Oliveira Salazar's dictatorship in Portugal. Through Prado's book, he learns that the author was a doctor and poet who had taken up arms and fought against Salazar.
This book is something different and very interesting to read.
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4.0 étoiles sur 5 Night train to Lisbon 17 juin 2015
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Un excellent livre qui nous fait voyager et rêver. Il faut être patient et lire petit peu par petit peu et s'enfoncer dans l'histoire qui nous est proposée.
Le changement de vie du protagoniste est radical. Je recommande ce livre car c'est une super expérience à vivre, je pense.
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2 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Boring ! 9 mai 2013
Par ClemDup
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
The story, as such, is quite nice but the writing is so heavy !!! I've been waiting for something to happen until the last page but... nothing !!!
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 étoiles sur 5  209 commentaires
140 internautes sur 147 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 may sound boring, but I couldn't put it down 24 février 2008
Par Nim Sudo - Publié sur Amazon.com
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.
118 internautes sur 130 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Not hollywood enough for ya? 20 février 2008
Par Craig D. Phillipson - Publié sur Amazon.com
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.
48 internautes sur 53 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 top of my list 26 août 2008
Par C. Ritacca - Publié sur Amazon.com
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.
22 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Literary Journey into Self-Awareness 1 janvier 2009
Par Fairbanks Reader - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
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.
25 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 21st century existentialism 5 septembre 2008
Par Shelley B - Publié sur Amazon.com
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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