Book Review, “Night Train to Lisbon”

Night Train to Lisbon
by Pascal Mercier
Translated by Barbara Harshav
Grove Press, 2008
392 pp

“Last Train to Lisbon” was going to be read in a book club a friend of mine belonged to. The club started it, then decided to drop it. Another friend started reading it and has yet to complete it.

The criticisms were consistent: it was too long; it was too windy; it was too dense; the memoir writing was too tedious and philosophical; there were too many characters; there were too many scene shifts.

Well, I’m here to say. I finished the novel. In fact, I read it twice. What can I say? I was an English teacher. I love a challenge.

On the surface, the story is really quite simple: an aging philology teacher finds a book of memoirs in a book store. He starts to read them. The author of the memoirs was a Portuguese doctor and a resistance fighter during the Salazar dictatorship.

Gregorius, the teacher, has found his fantasized soul mate in this resistance fighter, Amadeu Prado, a brooding and tortured aristocrat, a “goldsmith of words” who destines himself “to rescue the silent experiences of human life from their muteness.” Continue reading