Night Train to Lisbon

Some stories gradually grow on you and some characters seem that they have been made from ingredients picked from your own life. And when this happens in a book, which is written lyrically and full of erudition, for readers like me, it is a something mesmerizing.
A few weeks back I finished Pascal Mercier’s “Night Train to Lisbon”, a book originally written in German and later translated in several languages. The theme of book is delightful mix of philosophy and suspense. This concoction is very much expected as Pascal Mercier is pseudonym of philosophy professor Peter Bieri. The philosophy does not seem to take precedence, often case with most of the philosopher cum writers, it unfurls itself subtly with the story.

When I saw the blurb of the book, I was immediately tempted to grab a copy and I did just that. A middle aged teacher of Classics walks out of a class to explore life of an enigmatic Portugese doctor, a few pages from a book written by the doctor pushed him on an uncertain journey. The teacher, Gregorius middle aged, relatively well ensconced in his life, walking out on sheer impulse and on pull of an enigma, is in itself awe inspiring considering the way we cling to nugatory inane stuffs.
Though the book intrigues you when Gregorius walks out but soon relegates Gregorius to a secondary role, he just becomes a prop in emergence of a larger than life character of Portugese doctor Prado. Prado is our typical larger than life hero who resides in almost everyone , struggling to come out but succumbs to cruelties of rational mind and selfish emotions. A hero, whose personality is carved with a mute conflict between a father and a son, a conflict which stemmed from deep love and unexpressed expectations, Prado is gifted in many ways.
The life of Prado is portrayed in the book in many stories told by Prado’s friends and his sister to Gregorius. Marcier’s virtuoso story telling makes each of phase of Prado’s life and his struggle come alive in front of your eyes with exquisite stories told by different characters in the book. Gregorius goes on to discover Prado and his extraordinary life, punctuated by many events depicting superlative emotions, and this discovery for him becomes a self-discovery.
This is surely one of the better books I have read in recent times, would recommend to anyone who savors intelligent well written fiction.

My Reading List, 2008

Fiction

  • Sacred Games By Viikram Chandra
  • Bandicoots in moonlight by Avijit Ghosh
  • The Girl with Dragon Tatoo by Steig Larsson
  • Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Non-Fiction

  • Egonomics by David Marcum and Steven Smith
  • The Cult of Amateurs  by Andrew Keen
  • A Perfect Mess by David Freedman
  • Super Crunchers by  Ian Ayres
  • Wikinomics by Tapscott and Wiliams
  • How to change the world by David Bornstein
  • Stick to drawing comics, monkey brain! by Scot Adams
  • Getting things done by David Allen
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • The Stuff of Thoughts by Steven Pinker
  • Madness and Civilization by Foucault

Half Read / Unfinished Books

  • Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani
  • The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
  • Hot Flat and Crowded by T. Friedman
  • Dreaming of Jupiter by Ted Simon (Thanks Srey for the gift.)
  • India: The Emerging Giant by Arvind Panagariya
  • Phantoms in the brain by Blakeslee and Ramachandran
  • Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Tribe by Bruce Parry

Surely I could not read a lot of fiction this year and spent a lot of time on  non-fiction/ pop-economics. Though I wanted to read some good fiction titles. I bought many books last year and I think I need to speed up my reading to consume them this year.