Night Train to Lisbon

night train jacketNight Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

“The real director of our life is accident—a director full of cruelty, compassion and bewitching charm.

It’s an unrecognized form of stupidity, you have to forget the cosmic meaninglessness of all our acts to be able to be vain and that’s a glaring form of stupidity.

How boring and stale it must be to know that what happens today, this month, this year, doesn’t matter, endless more days, months, years will come.

A feeling is no longer the same when it comes the second time.  It dies through the awareness of its return

In the immortal soul, a gigantic weariness and a flagrant despair must grow in view of the certainty that it will never end, never.  It is death that gives the moment its beauty and its horror.  Only through death is time a living time.  Why does the Lord, the omniscient God, not know that?  Why does he threaten us with endlessness that must mean unbearable desolation.”

Had enough?  Can you tell this novel was written by a Professor of Philosophy?

These and other rantings are on full view in Night Train to Lisbon.

This is a story with two main protagonists.  First is Raimund Gregorius,   He has led a dull, unfulfilling life as a teacher of classic languages at a private school in Bern Switzerland.   He learns of his exact opposite in Amadeu de Prado, a brilliant student who goes on to be a brilliant doctor and also a leader in the Portuguese Resistance to Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, whose dictatorship dominated Portugal for 1932 to 1974.  Gregorius spends most of the novel  pursuing information about the life of Amadeu  who has been dead for a while, first through an obscure book  that Amadeu published and then by tracking down and talking to most of the people that knew him.

Both Raimund and Amadeu are angsty people.  Both suffer from life threatening, chronic ailments that may be their undoing.  To my disappointment, not much is mentioned about the resistance other than showing the effects on some of the characters, such as deformed hands and broken minds.

I made it through this book and it had its redeeming qualities but on the whole was a real downer. The book is now a movie, starring Jeremy Irons. It was filmed in Germany, and has not yet been releases in the United States.


That’s how he was, the godless priest: He thought things through to the end.  He always thought them through to the end.  No matter how black the consequences were.

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