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Nachtzug nach Lissabon
Pascal Mercier
publisher: Carl Hanser Verlag, München/Wenen, 2004

translated as:
Night Train to Lisbon
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 2008
translation: Barbara Harshav

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Raimund Gregorius is a Classics master in a Bern grammar school. He wears unfashionable spectacles, is well educated outside his own subject, and was once, disastrously, married to a former pupil. Now, suddenly, he walks out of his classroom and takes the train to Lisbon. In his luggage is a volume of philosophical reflections by an aristocratic Portuguese doctor. Fascinated by the book, Gregorius resolves to find out all he can about its author, one Amadeu Prado.

Prado was the son of an austere judge who committed suicide during the Salazar regime. He himself becomes a doctor to the poor, extremely popular in his neighborhood until the day a hated police chief falls ill outside his door and he saves his life. The angry reaction of the locals impels him into resistance circles, where, by now a widower, he meets the beautiful mistress of a life-long friend. When the resistance group becomes endangered, the friend announces that they must kill the woman
who, because of her incredible memory, could reveal too much to the police if she were to be arrested and tortured. Prado is appalled and takes her away to Spain, where they become lovers, thus destroying his oldest friendship. He returns a changed man and shortly dies, barely surviving the revolution which topples Salazar. Gregorius, obsessed with his philosophy and story, devotes his time in Portugal to meeting all those, family and friends, who can tell his tale.

To a large extent Gregorius is the opposite of Prado, who was a man of action and a challenger of orthodox beliefs. Yet through his posthumous influence the cautious schoolmaster is prompted into action, notably in jolting his hero’s sister out of the time warp in which she has lived since her beloved brother’s death. The novel does not end, however, with Gregorius turning into a sort of second Prado. Sadly he falls ill and has to return home, his future health in the balance.

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BOOKS BY PASCAL MERCIER:

Night Train to Lisbon
2004
Raimund Gregorious is a bookish Latin professor, well-respected, perhaps a little boring. One stormy morning, he encounters a beautiful, distraught Portuguese woman in a red leather coat... Later that day Raimund will realize: that moment changed everything.
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