A couple of days ago, I finished reading this classic (which was way overdue): The night train to Lisbon, by Pascal Mercier. The book has been sitting on my book shelf for at least a year, waiting for the right time, one would suppose… But this extended weekend, I devoured it. It is a beautiful narrative about Gregorious, a man who goes in a search for the story and essence of the author of a book he was reading. He travels to Lisbon, where he meets his relatives, his friends, and his long ‘lost’ love, and begins to define the pieces together as to whom Amadeu de Prado really was. However, in the process, he ends not only understanding Amadeu, but also finding and comprehending his own self and his own soul. I think not only the story is melancholically beautiful, but what really struck me was Prado’s book and character: extracts from it appear throughout the novel as Gregorious reads them. They are deep, profound, emotional, melancholic, and timeless. They reflect a soul which is incredibly strong, and yet utterly incapable of co-ordination the ever after with life itself. But what made me fall in love with the book even more was the wisdom, the questions and the ideals that tormented Prado’s soul… Indeed. They are not whims of a numb existence, they are deep considerations of life, destiny, hoe we relate to others, and of our purpose on this world.
Here are some of my favourite parts from the book, and bellow is the trailer of the movie, which I have not seen (just yet) .
“Life is not what we live; it is what we imagine we are living.”
“To understand yourself: Is that a discovery or a creation?”
“Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us — what happens with the rest?”
“That words could cause something in the world, make someone move or stop, laugh or cry: even as a child he had found it extraordinary and it never stopped impressing him. How did words do that? Wasn’t it like magic?”
“Isn’t it true that it’s not people who meet, but rather the shadows cast by their imaginations?”
“So, the fear of death might be described as the fear of not being able to become whom one had planned to be.”
“When we talk about ourselves, about others, or simply about things, we want – it could be said – to reveal ourselves in our words: We want to show what we think and feel. We let other have a glimpse into our soul.”
“Loyalty… A will, a decision, a resolution of the soul.”
“I would not like to live in a world without cathedrals. I need their beauty and grandeur. I need their imperious silence. I need it against the witless bellowing of the barracks yard and the witty chatter of the yes-men. I want to hear the rustling of the organ, this deluge of ethereal notes. I need it against the shrill farce of marches.”
“Don’t waste your time, do something worthwhile with it.”
But what can that mean: worthwhile? Finally to start realizing long-cherished wishes. To attack the error that there will always be time for it later….Take the long-dreamed-of trip, learn this language, read those books, buy yourself this jewelry, spend a night in that famous hotel. Don’t miss out on yourself.
Bigger things are also part of that: to give up the loathed profession, break out of a hated milieu. Do what contributes to making you more genuine, moves you closer to yourself.”
“[Vanity] is an unrecognised form of stupidity, you have to forget the cosmic meaninglessness of all our acts to be able to be vain and that’s a glaring form of stupidity.”
” Did they know each other? Did they talk? Laugh? Cry? People will say: That’s how it is when strangers pass one another in rain and wind and there might be something in the comparison. But we sit opposite people for longer, we eat and work together, lie next to each other, live under the same roof. Where is the haste? Yet everything that gives the illusion of permanence, familiarity, and intimate knowledge: isn’t it a deception invented to reassure, with which we try to conceal and ward off the flickering, disturbing haste because it could be impossible to live with all the time. Isn’t every exchange of looks between people like the ghostly brief meeting of eyes between travellers passing one another, intoxicated by the inhuman speed and the shock of air pressure that makes everything shudder and clatter? Don’t our looks bounce off others, as in the hasty encounter of the night, and leave us with nothing but conjectures, slivers of thoughts and imagined qualities? Isn’t it true that it’s not people who meet, but rather the shadows cast by their imaginations?”
“There were people who read and there were the others. Whether you were the a reader or a non-reader was soon apparent. There was no greater distinction between people.”
“Why do we feel sorry for people who can’t travel? Because, unable to expand externally, they are not able to expand internally either, they can’t multiply and so they are deprived of the possibility of undertaking expansive excursions in themselves and discovering who and what else they could have become.”
And last but not least:
“We are stratified creatures, creatures full of abysses, with a soul of inconstant quicksilver, with a mind whose color and shape change as in a kaleidoscope that is constantly shaken.”
All quotes from the book Night train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier.