I recently finished Night Train to Lisbon, by the Swiss author, Pascal Mercier, translated by Barbara Harshav. This is another book about a quest. In most ways, Henderson and Gregorius could not be more opposite: Henderson a flamboyant, wandering millionaire seeking the meaning of life, and Gregorius a scholar of Greek and Latin, nicknamed Papyrus because of his dry, papery ways. Gregorius is of working class origins. He has lived his whole adult life as a high school teacher in Bern. And yet, as Night Train to Lisbon opens, a strange encounter is a catalyst for Gregorius to drop precipitously out of his former life and start on a quest for the Portuguese author of an obscure, privately published book A Goldsmith of Words, a book that purports to explore the fragmented, buried, kaleidoscopic experiences that make up a life.
The passion to learn about this mysterious author, the conceit of a book within a book, and the appealing figure of Gregorius all captured my imagination and sustained me through the 438 pages of this novel. This book is almost too full of intriguing sentences, most attributed to the mysterious Portuguese author, Amadeu de Almeida Prado. Here are a few: Continue reading “The exemplary sentence, take 2”