Books you must read #4

4. Pascal Mercier – Night Train to Lisbon

The main character, Gregorius, teaches classical languages at a Swiss college, and lives a life governed by routine. He finds a book that speaks to his deadened soul and searches out details of Amadeu-the author’s life in a quest to know about someone who might have found the way to a meaningful life.Deeply absorbed by his philosophical writings, he takes the train to Lisbon that same night, exploring Amadeu’s life during Antonio de Oliveira Salazar’s dictatorship in Portugal. With its beautiful prose the book takes the reader on a journey of sadness and melancholy and at the same time is full of hope, it understands the random beauty of life and relationships.

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“Disappointment is considered bad. A thoughtless prejudice. How, if not through disappointment, should we discover what we have expected and hoped for? And where, if not in this discovery, should self-knowledge lie? So how could one gain clarity about oneself without disappointment?

One could have the hope that he would become more real by reducing expectations, shrink to a hard, reliable core and thus be immune to the pain of disappointment. But how would it be to lead a life that banished every long, bold expectation, a life where there were only banal expectations like “the bus is coming”?”


“In the years afterward, I fled whenever somebody began to understand me. That has subsided. But one thing remained: I don’t want anybody to understand me completely. I want to go through life unknown. The blindness of others is my safety and my freedom.”


You can find the book here:

English version:
A Night Train to Lisbon

German version:

Nachtzug nach Lissabon

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