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Night Train to Lisbon

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  21,200 ratings  ·  2,036 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 2004)
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Popular Answered Questions
Judith Baxter Much more depth of course, but I just saw the movie for the second time and loved it just as much as the first time. Recommend you read the book.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Arnau Orengo I am also really intrigued by it. I thought the book was really slow and the chracater of Amadeu Prado was not that interesting for me, so I chose to …moreI am also really intrigued by it. I thought the book was really slow and the chracater of Amadeu Prado was not that interesting for me, so I chose to not finish the book and see the movie, where the phone number doesn't show up at all (neither his love to the Portuguese language.)
So in the book he never calls this number? What Gregorius does after he mets the woman on the bridge doesn't make sense to me.(less)

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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Jim Fonseca
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: german-authors
A teacher of dead languages (Latin, Greek) at a Swiss prep school has no real friends or even much of a life to speak of. One day he stops a despondent young woman from jumping off a bridge. She is Portuguese and he then begins reading a work by a Portuguese author and becomes obsessed with finding out about the author. He quits his dull job of many years (in the same school he attended as a boy) and hops a train to Lisbon even though he doesn’t even speak Portuguese.

So this is novel of male mi
Mar 29, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Susanna-Cole King
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Nachtzug nach Lissabon = Night Train to Lisbon, Pascal Mercier

The book was originally published in German in 2004, and was first published in English in 2008.

Night Train to Lisbon is a philosophical novel by Swiss writer Pascal Mercier. It recounts the travels of Swiss Classics instructor Raimund Gregorius as he explores the life of Amadeu de Prado, a Portuguese doctor, during António de Oliveira Salazar's right-wing dictatorship in Portugal. Prado is a serious thinker whose active mind becomes
Nov 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
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
Oct 15, 2013 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
Manuel Antão
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2007
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Airing Aphorisms: “Night Train to Lisbon” by Pascal Mercier

(Original Review, December 21st 2007)

NB: Read in German.

Not every difficult book is by definition a good one - not every challenge is worth taking.

A good writer can do both, like Ishiguro. Write a book for the mainstream readers, to pick them up where they stand and travel with them. Or write a book so obscure that only very few will even want to go on that journey, those books
Andrew Smith
Nov 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrew by: Kat Vrla
Raimund Gregorius is an expert in ancient languages (Latin, Greek and Hebrew) who teaches at a college in Bern, Switzerland. One day the 57 year old divorcee meets an enigmatic Portuguese woman on his way to work, she’s distressed and possibly contemplating suicide. He invites the woman to attend his morning class - something completely out of character for this highly regimented man - but soon after she disappears. This strange start to his day gives rise to something of an epiphany for Raimund ...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
There were the people who read and the others. Whether you were a reader or a non-reader - it was soon apparent. There was no greater distinction between people.

Gregorius is a philologist, a middle aged high school teacher of ancient languages in Bern, Switzerland. He’s stuck in his ways without realising it when a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman on a bridge and the discovery of a book by Amadeu de Prado inspire him to walk out of his job and go to Lisbon. Unlikely? Gregorius’ love of a
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 30, 2009 rated it liked it
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 Bell
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
My initial view of Night Train to Lisbon is that the reader is almost forced to follow the pattern of the novel's main character, Raimund Gregorius, attempting to explicate a book much like Raimund did when trying to comprehend the writings of a Portuguese doctor, Amadeu de Prado. Dr. Prado had been active in the resistance against Salazar the Portuguese dictator & Prado's words seized Raimund's imagination, causing him to suddenly flee his secure position as a teacher of classics & to entrain f ...more
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 26, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Joe Hilley
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Last night, I finished reading Night Train to Lisbon, by Pascal Mercier. It's a philosophical novel about a language teacher, Raimund Gregorious, who is propelled by a combination of events on a quest to explore the life of Amadeu de Prado, a Portuguese physician and writer who was a member of the 1960s political resistance against the Salazar dictatorship.

The story is told through excerpts from Prado's writings, alternating between that and details about Gregorious' experiences, incidents from
Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: portugal, philosophy
I noticed that this book evokes very different reactions, from admiration to disgust, and oddly enough, this is also one of the themes of the book: how different the perception of people can be, especially about each other; close friends, partners, even very close family can see or feel each other fundamentally 'wrong'.

Pascal Mercier (pseudonym of Swiss philosopher Peter Bieri) has written a philosophical book, but packaged as an exciting story in a concrete setting, in the line of Voltaire's Ca
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

Description: Night Train to Lisbon follows Raimund Gregorius, a fifty-seven-year-old Classics scholar, on a journey that takes him across Europe. Abandoning his job and his life, and travelling with a dusty old book as his talisman, he heads for Lisbon in search of clues to the life of the book's Portuguese author, Amadeu de Prado. As he gets swept up in his quest, he finds that the journey is also one of self-discovery, as he re-encounters all the decisions he has made - and not made - in his l
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
“Life is not what we live; it is what we imagine we are living.”

“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.”
It's not bad, but I find that we are doing too much around this novel. The story starts well with this call to adventure, this woman on the bridge ... but in fact, not much is happening; very quickly the story is nothing more adventurous, lyrical and epic (which I expected). The story is philosophical, and I admit that I was a little bored. In short, this story, even if it is well written, is not really my cup of tea: not enough adventure, epic, feelings or emotions. ...more
Jan 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary
Coming from a Philosophy professor, I was a bit skeptical to get into the book first, but then I was drawn into the book when the protagonist, Gregorius, also a professor, leaves his stagnant and monotonous life behind on an impulse, and boards a train for Lisbon, to understand the tragic end of a writer.

What is the story ?
The main character, Raimund Gregorius, is a teacher of classics, who has lead a very tedious life, and that one day, out of the blue, decides to leave his job, go to Lisbon a
Richard Newton
At times beautifully written and profound, but in the end I found the book a little frustrating and unsatisfying. This is an ambitious book - about many different things - you can read it for the story itself or see it as a book about relationships and the search for meaning in life, but you could interpret it differently. I found it to be about too many different things, and some of the possible story-lines are opened up, and then go nowhere.

The main story-line is intriguing, and initially it
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t read the book, but watched the eponymous movie. Quiet, slow, mysterious, melancholical. Wonderful coverage of the ending of the Portuguese dictatorship back in the 1970s.
Surprise star was Christopher Lee as priest.
Apr 08, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: death row prisoners

Hard to describe how much I hated this book. Also I thought it was bad. One of those utterly silly, horrendous novels. I quite enjoyed Mercier's other one, Perlmann's Silence, which I picked off the library shelf not knowing anything about the novel or Mercier. (I think there was a blurb on Perlmann's Silence in the New Yorker, but one of those little New Yorker blurbs that says absolutely nothing in four sentences.) Perlmann's Silence was aided by having a plot. Night Train to Lisbon doesn't re
Gerald Sinstadt
Jan 01, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
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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.

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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
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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.” 1218 likes
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