Night Train to Lisbon
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Night Train to Lisbon

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  6,950 ratings  ·  859 reviews
A huge international best seller, this ambitious novel plumbs the depths of our shared humanity to offer up a breathtaking insight into life, love, and literature itself. A major hit in Germany that went on to become one of Europe’s biggest literary blockbusters in the last five years, Night Train to Lisbon is an astonishing novel, a compelling exploration of consciousness...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published December 21st 2007 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Susanna-Cole King
When, on a whim, I threw everything away to wander thousands of miles from anything I've ever known, I first went to Lisbon because of this book. That was last September, and by November I had traipsed through neighboring Spain and south into Africa, though, I've since been back to the city of Lisbon, and furthermore to this book.

If you are not, at least in some part, a thinker, if philosophy ebbs away at your patience, if the sight of pages mostly barren of dialogue make you panic, this book w...more
Apr 21, 2014 Cheryl rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of "Meditations" and "The Book of Disquiet"
"That words could cause something in the world, make someone move or stop, laugh or cry: even as a child he found it extraordinary and it never stopped impressing him. How did words do that? Wasn't it like magic?" Pascal Mercier, pen name for Peter Bieri

This is the story of a man who loves words. Raimund Gregorius is a 57 year old Professor at a gymnasium in Bern, the same school he attended as a child. He has taught Greek, Latin and Hebrew for thirty years and is a man set in his ways. Divorced...more
Apparently, Page des Libraires calls this 'One of the great European novels of the past few years'- compared to what? The SNCF Railway Timetable.

This book makes me incredibly angry. And after some thought I can honestly award it the 'worst book I have ever read' award. I could forgive it for being slow. I could forgive the missed opportunities of drawing what potentially could have been interesting characters in two dimensions. I could even forgive the shockingly bad translation (it has not even...more
Oct 16, 2013 Manny marked it as to-read
When dictatorship is a fact, revolution is a duty.
Normally, I would just leave it at that. It's a nice quote I hadn't heard before. But, in the current climate, I am concerned that I will have my account closed down by the GR censors if I don't explain myself more fully, so I guess I'd better do so.

I have not read the book, but we saw the movie at a local cinema, using the free gift card that I received as an unexpected bonus with my new contact lenses. Not thought it was great, but I was less...more
I’ve gone a bit off writing reviews lately. On the other hand, this book made me want to write something to put my thoughts on it into some shape.

Incoherent Thought Number One

The protagonist, a teacher of dead languages in Bern, is inspired by this book he comes across to quit his job and travel to Portugal to find out more about the writer of the book, Prado. Many reviewers who hated this novel have commented how utterly new-ageishly purile the comments in the book are, more like the thoughts...more
I LOVED this book. I've been running around quoting "Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us - what happens to the rest?"

Part of me wants to say that that line, and the subject of this book, the exploration of alternate lives than the one you've chosen, resonated with me because I'm at that age when one recognizes how much will go undone, how many experiences will never be felt, how many lives could still be lived, given world enough and time.

But actually, I've had this...more
Jun 23, 2008 Tricia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in language, or Portuguese political history, or thoughtful mysteries
Recommended to Tricia by: Denise, Ernie
This book took me a long, long time to read, but I am glad I stuck with it. A very philosophical book -- it asks the reader to imagine what would happen if you questioned everything about your life and started a new existence.
The main character in this book does exactly that, using a book written by a Portuguese doctor to as a tool for self-discovery.

If you want to be prompted to think more deeply about life, who you truly are, and about human nature in general, read this book.
This is a book which can be read on different levels! At least for me. I can think about a paragraph and the import of those lines OR I can read it for the story from start to finish. Some lines are priceless. Some lines, I just think: What??!!!

I am nearing the end! What is going to happen?
It ends perfectly.

This book is very philosophical! Definitely not for everyone, and it is kind of wordy, but boy is there a lot to think about.....

Some reviewers remark that it is poorly translated from the Ge...more
Why would you give me this book to read? Why? You didn’t like it. At the time I was too pleased to have a present to care. You could have put anything in my hands and I’d have been delighted. A pen, a purl, a plum… But this? Pah!
At the time, I thought it might still be a good story though. It looked to be a quiet, interior journey. Our man, Gregorius, has a thing for words. I can relate. But not in the way I relate at the beginning of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Gregorius is no Belle. Ne...more
Jul 05, 2008 Bryant rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One
The hype for this book (over two million copies sold) is inexplicable. Although the central character Gregorius is a classical linguist with a supposedly impregnable gift for recognizing and treasuring beautiful poetry, the entire story here hinges on his suddenly fleeing his life in pursuit of an elusive and patently insipid author named Amadeu Prado. Prado's bathetic meditations fill the pages of this novel: a source of continual inspiration for Gregorius, these sections were a source of almos...more
The book suffers from significant problems. The English translation from the German is wooden; the book is too long; the editing is bad (e.g., a Greek word from Homer that is significant to the plot is misread [I hope] from the author's or translator's manuscript and mangled in print); and the endgame is botched (to borrow from the omnipresent chess references that weigh the book down almost as much as the endless poor imitations of Pessoa). The premise had promise, and some of the characters we...more
I loved this book. It is an intellectual exploration of one man's reevaluation of his life through the discovery of a relatively unknown but very popular Portuguese doctor, later become member of the resistance to the Salizar government. His impetuous travel from his home in Bern to Lisbon, unravel the mystery of what the doctor was all about through his writings, his friends and family, as it builds for the main character an understanding of his own existence and the nature of human relationshi...more
What a fabulous book. I know I will go back to this one to reread passages.

To me this wasn't about philosophy. This was a book about how we live or don't live, about who we are and the myriad levels of identity we all have and how much we can ever really know or not know someone.

It's about flawed people finding some sort of salvation in their own humanity - or not being able to accept their flawed humanity.

If you're looking for gripping clever plots with tight action, go dig up one of the endles...more
A story like this only comes along once every few years and storytelling like this is just as rare. I didn't want this book to end, which is very meta because it is a book about a lover of literature who falls in love with an out-of-print memoir from a kindred spirit. The protagonist, like me, dreads finishing his treasured book.

There is so much nobility, intelligence, and heart in these characters that I am truly sad that I will never really know them in real life. I was almost honored to spen...more
Raimund Gregorius ist Lehrer an einem Berner Gymnasium. In seinem Leben hat er es vor allem zu einem gebracht, zu dem Ruf die toten Sprachen zu beherrschen wie kein anderer - dies hat ihm den liebevollen Beinamen "Mundus" eingetragen. Sonst ist sein Leben bisher sehr unspektakulär verlaufen, spießig könnte man sagen. Und da - plötzlich wie aus heiterem Himmel - wird er durch scheinbare Nichtigkeiten vollkommen aus der Bahn geworfen. Ein Entwicklungsroman der Sonderklasse beginnt.

Sprachlich ragt...more
Dieses Buch ist mal wieder ein gelungenes Beispiel für einen völlig mißlungenen Klappen- und Umschlagtext und was daraus wird: Mehr als die Hälfte der Bewertungen bei amazon sind gut bis sehr gut, ca. ein Drittel schlecht bis sehr schlecht und lediglich 10% finden es 'so ok'. Kein Wunder: Wer sich ein Buch kauft aufgrund der vollmundigen Ankündigung als Krimi ('Bewußtseinskrimi!'), in dem der Protagonist Raimund Gregorius um sein Leben fürchten muss, wird schwer enttäuscht sein von dieser Lektür...more
Inexplicably bad. Translator's fault, in part? Who knows. I wanted to like - nay, love - this, because an old man at a bar recommended it to me as a book that had changed his life. Instead, I found myself desperate to be done with it. The main character, Gregorius, an uptight teacher of classical languages at a Swiss school, inexplicably quits his job and drops everything after a chance encounter with a mysterious Portuguese woman. Portuguese, you see, is the one language he doesn't know, and he...more
Raimund Gregorius hat getan, was wir uns alle in der ein oder anderen Situation mal wünschen. Er ist einfach gegangen, mitten im Unterricht, hat sein altes Leben hinter sich gelassen und ist nach Lissabon gereist. Dort wandelt er auf den Spuren eines geheimnisvollen Autors, der mit seinem Leben viele Menschen berührt hat. Gregorius findet immer mehr über diesen mysteriösen Prado heraus und findet mit jedem Schritt auch mehr zu sich selbst.

"Nachtzug nach Lissabon" ist ein ruhiges, philosophisches...more
José-contemplates-Saturn's Aurora
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. I wanted to be enthralled with its philosophical bent and writing style, allowing me to take my place with the cultured Europeans. But I didn't particularly enjoy it; I have to admit I'm solidly with American opinion on this one. It was well written, took a unique approach to creating a biography of a writer, and offered up a healthy dose of philosophy which I did find refreshing. It did not, however, grip me at all. I found myself wishing I had somethin...more
Peter Bieri, who goes under the pen name Pascal Mercier is a professor of Philosophy that lives in Berlin. A Night Train to Lisbon started with Raimund Gregorius, a teacher of ancient languages in Bern who met a Portuguese woman by a train. The encounter acted as a catalyst for him to leave his life and discover the life of the godless priest,, Amadeu Prado. Through the journal written by him, compiled and published by his sister, Adriana, The Goldsmith of Words, maps out the life of the doctor...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Even those reviewers who could empathise with boring Gregorius, the novel's 'hero,' have had to concede that a lumpen translation and countless errors that passed the spellchecker (but wouldn't have escaped a mildly conscientious proof reader) make this a challenging read.

One has to take the publishers' word for it that two million copies have been sold world-wide. It would have been more honest - but probably dangerous - to reveal how many actually read it to the end. Since I reached page 125...more
My around-the-world book for Portugal. The idea of a staid, even stuffy professor of classical languages deciding to chuck it all and run away to Lisbon intrigued me.

Okay, finished. I liked the book more than I thought I would. I enjoyed unraveling the tale of Amadeu Prado's life, and felt a sense of deja vu because I did much the same thing as Gregorius once. Several years ago I traveled to a distant city to research the life of a dead man, a man who'd made an impact on everyone he touched, a m...more
Maria Grazia
Una vita scialba interrotta da un incontro improvviso, un incontro che porta questa vita su nuovi binari, alla ricerca di uno sconosciuto orafo delle parole, in una nazione straniera, di cui non si conosce la lingua. Una ricerca che è una profonda immersione dentro se stessi, cercando le fonti della propria unicità.
What an interesting surprise of a book. Easy to tell it's written by a philosopher. There were many pages that I marked to read again and again. I kept forgetting that it's set in essentially a contemporary time since so much is set in the past. Made me miss my year in Lisbon.
"Over poetry, you didn’t gush. You read it. You read it with the tongue. You lived it. You felt how it moved you, changed you. How it contributed to giving your own life a form, a color, a melody. You didn’t talk about it and you certainly didn’t make it into cannon fodder of an academic career."

I think this book is trying to get you to imagine what would happen if you questioned everything in your life and one day decided to start anew. I think the philosophical writings of Amadeu de Prado, a...more
I find it very hard to know how to score this book: so many elements of it I "really liked", so many times I was struck by the sense of place or the interplay of ideas. This is a book infused with ideas. It's a book which reflects on friendship, loyalty, memory, our constructed sense of identity and the impossibility of knowing each other. Much of it is truly fascinating.


There were also several times I felt like throwing it across the room. The translation is dreadful. The passages from...more
The plot of Night Train To Lisbon begins with a well-worn premise: a character stuck in the routine of life suddenly receives an epiphany, and goes of on a horizon-expanding quest to find himself.
But few novels or movies plumb the philosophical depths of this novel, the third by Swiss philosophy professor Peter Bieri, whose nom de plume is Pascal Mercier. A bestseller in Europe when it was first published in 2004, it is translated for the first time from German to English by Barbara Harshav.
Rückblickend auf dieses Buch und dessen Geschichte, habe ich gemischte Gefühle. Ich weiß nicht, ob ich mit meiner Rezension diesem Buch gerecht werden kann, aber dennoch starte ich mal einen Versuch :)
Vorab sollte ich zukünftige Leser warnen, dass der Klappentext sehr irreführend ist und meiner Meinung nach nicht wirklich die Story wiedergibt. So habe ich mich von diesem verleiten lassen und erwartete daher eine Geschichte a la Der Schatten des Windes von Carlos Ruis Zafon.

Inhalt des Klappentex...more
Jan 22, 2011 Chris rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: A.S. Byatt fans, Pamuk fans
This is a strange book. It is very much like Once on a Moonless Night, yet in some ways, it is more human.

The journey isn't one of high drama, at least physical high drama, but one of the inner soul. At times, the book and the plotting are strange, almost magic realism. Despite this, the language is compelling, and the central character, Mundus, is very real.

Mundus' desire to learn more about the writer of a book, a book that speaks to him, is one that most readers can indentify with. How he cha...more
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Pascal Mercier is the pseudonym of Peter Bieri, a Swiss writer and philosopher.
Bieri studied philosophy, English studies and Indian studies in both London and Heidelberg.
More about Pascal Mercier...
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“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” 194 likes
“A feeling is no longer the same when it comes the second time. It dies through the awareness of its return. We become tired and weary of our feelings when they come too often and last too long.” 142 likes
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