Raimund Gregorius teaches classical languages at a Swiss lycée, and lives a life governed by routine. One day, a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman inspires him to question his life - and leads him to an extraordinary book that will open the possibility of changing it. Inspired by the words of Amadeu de Prado, a doctor whose intelligence and magnetism left a mark on everyone who met him and whose principles led him into a confrontation with Salazar’s dictatorship, Gregorius boards a train to Lisbon. As Gregorius becomes fascinated with unlocking the mystery of who Prado was, an extraordinary tale unfolds.
©2004, 2008 Carl Hanser Verlag Muenchen Wien, Barbara Harshav (translation) (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
“A treat for the mind. One of the best books I have read in a long time.” (Isabel Allende)
“A rare reading pleasure.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“One of the great European novels of the past few years.” (Page des libraires, France)
First of all, I want to get out of the way that I had no real problem with the translation, being hooked almost right away into the premise of Gregorious abruptly jettisoning his academic rut to pursue the "mystery" of an obscure Portuguese author's story. Nor did I mind the narration, which I felt was fine. The first half went by quite quickly, with our protagonist deciding spontaneously to leave for Lisbon, traveling by train for a couple of days, and then settling down there to look into the background of Dr. Prado, author of the book. I liked the description of the city, and Gregorious' sense of wonder at the places he sees and new people he meets.
Part Two nearly lost me entirely. The 3rd quarter of the story consists almost entirely of flashbacks to Prado's past, with Gregorious nearly absent altogether, except as a catalyst for Mercier to provide all that backstory; I ended up fast forwarding through correspondence between Prado and his father. That issue eased up later when Gregorious decides to head for Finisterre, Spain based upon Prado's obsession with medieval concepts of the land beyond the end of the (known) world. Didn't really fit in with the overall story to me, but anything to get us back to the present day! Ending was a bit unresolved to me, but I was left feeling that the adventure had, indeed, changed Gregorious' life.
I cannot believe the quality of this narration... Just because David Colacci can read in English and Portugese doesn't mean he is qualified... His narration is SO monotonous and borring - I find myself no longer willing to be discrete about it... It simply sucks! I made sure to remember this name to avoid any future troubles. This supposed to be an artistic performance. Do not underestimate the importance of a beautiful narration - it ruins the entire experience of the book.
I really, really enjoyed this book. The story is, at least I think, absolutely fantastic. The main characters time in Portugal, learning about these other people, is such a great thing to witness.
We never know what could have happened if we'd taken this or that turn in life, and Pascal Mercier does a great job of fleshing that out.
Probably my favorite part of the book is when Gregorius is talking with an old friend of Amadeu and she says something like, "His biggest regret seemed to be that we didn't go to Avila together."
The narrator did a good job. His work with the accents and different European names was really well done.
At times his narration was a little airy, there were times, too, towards the second half of the book, where it kind of carried on and on, and it got a little old hearing the airiness of the narrator's voice talking about tea, but, in a sense, this has more to do with the characters and text the narrator is working with rather than the man himself.
Overall, though, this book is definitely worth reading. Even the scenes of Gregorius riding the train or the way he approaches new languages or translating things into Greek and Latin and Hebrew for fun make this book absolutely worth reading.
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