'Jesus said: One who knows everything else but who does not know himself knows nothing.' -- Gospel of Thomas
'Our lives are rivers, gliding free to that unfathomed boundless sea, the silent grave! -- Jorge Manrique
What makes a man change the habits of a lifetime? For Raimund Gregorius it is meeting a young Portuguese woman, finding a book.
Raimund Gregorius, Mundus to his friends, colleagues and students, is a teacher of ancient languages, the classics. This is where he has spent most of his life. One morning on his way to school he sees a young woman on a bridge about to jump, or at least that is what he believes. He rushes up to her and is in time to catch her before she jumps.
She follows him to school, sits at the back of the class, then leaves. In the vague hope of finding her, Raimund Gregorius goes to a shop that sells Portuguese books. He does not find her, but instead picks up a book, Um Ourives Das Palavras by Amadeu de Prado, given to him by the owner of the bookshop.
He picks up a Portuguese language course, and being a master of classics and Portuguese being not much more than a modern-day courser Latin, he starts to translate the book.
He knows that he has no choice, he has to go off in search of the author. The following morning he sends in a letter of resignation and sets off to his local station to catch the night train to Lisbon.
Do any of us know our own self?
Like Santiago in The Alchemist, Raimund Gregorius sets off on an adventure to follow his dream.
Pascal Mercier (1944- ) is the name under which Swiss professor of philosophy Peter Bieri writes. Night Train to Lisbon for which he is best known is his third novel.
Synchronicity: The day before I started to read The Night train to Lisbon, I watched a documentary on Paulo Coelho entitled El Alquimista de las Palabras in Portuguese with Spanish sub-titles. Um Ourives Das Palavras translates from Portuguese to English as A Goldsmith of Words. An Alchemist is one who searches for the Elixir of Life, the Philosopher's Stone, transmutes base metals into gold.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak [see BCID 6226914]
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon [see BCID 6027749]
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho [see BCID 7099250]