New York: Grove Press, 2008. Uncorrected Proof. Trade Paperback. , 438 pages. Slight cover wear and soiling. Slightly cocked. This has been called one of the Great European Novels of the past few years. A huge international bestseller, Night Train to Lisbon is a stunning novel of a man in the present day exploring a mystery that illuminates a place and its past. Raimund Gregorius teaches classical languages at a Swiss Lycee, and lives a life of routine. One day, a chance encounter with an enigmatic Portuguese woman inspires him to question his life and leads him to an extraordinary book that will open the possibility of changing it. He takes the train to Lisbon that same night, and with him the words of Amadeu de Prado, a doctor whose principles led him into confrontation with Salazar's dictatorship, and a man whose intelligence and magnetism left a mark on everyone he met. As Gregorius becomes fascinated with the mystery of who Prado was--meeting Prado's eighty-year-old sister, who keeps his house like a museum; an elderly torture survivor confined to a nursing home; and Prado's childhood friend and eventual partner in the resistance--an extraordinary tale takes shape. Night Train to Lisbon is a haunting tale of repression, resistance, love, and the human struggle to connect. Reminiscent of The Shadow of the Wind and The House of Spirits, Night Train to Lisbon will be remembered for its soul, wit, universality, and resonant depth. This book is a haunting tale of repression, resistance, love, and the human struggle to connect. The book will be remembered for its soul, wit, universality, and resonant depth. Peter Bieri (born 23 June 1944), better known by his pseudonym, Pascal Mercier, is a Swiss writer and philosopher. As a writer, Bieri uses the pseudonym Pascal Mercier, made up of the surnames of the two French philosophers Blaise Pascal and Louis-Sébastien Mercier. Peter Bieri has published four novels to date. Reviewers have identified “heart, woe and a lot of fate” as “his recipe for success” which Bieri, aiming at “wellness literature”, applies in each of his books. Bieri co-founded the research unit for Cognition and Brain studies at the German Research Foundation. The focuses of his research were the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics. From 1990 to 1993, he was a professor of the history of philosophy at the University of Marburg; from 1993 he taught philosophy at the Free University of Berlin while holding the chair of analytic philosophy, succeeding his mentor, Ernst Tugendhat. In 2007 he retired early, disillusioned by academic life and condemning what he saw as the rise of managerialism and decline in respect for academic work. Derived from a Kirkus review: An elegant meditative book teaches a painfully ironic life lesson in German-Swiss author Mercier’s searching 2004 novel, a critically acclaimed international bestseller. He who learns the lesson is 50ish Raimund Gregorius, a philologist who teaches Latin, Greek and Hebrew at a Swiss high school—until an unknown woman excites the scholar’s interest in an obscure book of philosophical observations penned by an equally unknown Portuguese author. Impulsively abandoning his academic responsibilities, Gregorius acquires the rare volume, ponders its contents and travels to Lisbon to research the life of its “vanished” author. He discovers that Amadeu de Prado, a would-be priest who became a renowned physician, had led an even more complex life as a member of the resistance movement opposing Portugal’s notorious dictator Antonio Salazar. The story emerges from Gregorius’s meetings: with Prado’s aged sister Adriana, the stoical though not uncritical preserver of his memory; a contemplative priest with whom the nonbelieving doctor had often debated theology; the brilliant and beautiful colleague Estefânia, who may have been Prado’s true soul mate; and the Resistance comrade Vítor Coutinho, who discloses the “evil” act (saving the life of a vicious secret police official) that motivated Prado to forsake the life of the mind for that of a man of violent action. The nearer Gregorius comes to the truth of Prado’s passionate commitment, the more insistent becomes the question he asks himself: “Had he perhaps missed a possible life, one he could easily have lived with his abilities and knowledge?” It’s the age-old intellectual’s dilemma, considered in a compelling blend of suspenseful narrative and discursive commentary. An intriguing fiction. Condition: Good.
Keywords: Portugal, Salazar, Dictator, Resistance movement, Torture, Secret Police, Adriana de Prado, Amadeu de Prado, Vitor Coutinho, Estafania, Raimund Gregorius, Philologist, Commitment, Violence, Priest, Peter Bieri