Some kind of book review: Night train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier.

220px-Night_Train_to_LisbonRaimund ‘Mundus’ Gregorius is a teacher in Latin, Greek and Hebrew in Swiss. His whole life he was fascinated by these ‘old’ languages but one day he encounters a women while he is going to the college where he works. This encounter changes his mind and he leaves his old life behind. While he stumbles upon a Portuguese book, he decides to get to know the writers life and travels to Lisbon, yes by night train.

The book takes you on his journey through present of Raimund as well as the past of the writer of the book, Prado, who lived under dictatorship of Salazar.

Reading some reviews on Goodreads the book seems to evoke different opinions from fabulous to abysmal. For me book wasn’t that bad but it was a bit drown out at some points. I thought that the spirit of Lisbon didn’t came through enough definitely considering the city plays a major role in this book. I didn’t know enough about the dictatorship in Portugal so I learned more about that. The main reason I’m writing this kind of review is to share the part of the book that really meant something to me. It’s about disappointment and if you know the force of perfectionism, this may as well speak to you.


 “Disappointment is considered bad. A thoughtless prejudice. How, if not through disappointment, should we discover what we have expected and hoped for? And where, if not in this discovery, should self-knowledge lie? So, how could one gain clarity about oneself without disappointment?

We shouldn’t suffer disappointment sighing at something our lives would be better without. We should seek it, track it down, collect it. Why am I disappointed that the adored actors of my youth all now show signs of age and decay? What does disappointment teach me about how little success is worth?

One who would really like to know himself would have to be a reckless, fanatical collector of disappointments, and seeking disappointing experiences must be like an addiction, the all-determining addiction of his life, for it would stand so clearly before his eyes that disappointment is not a hot, destroying poison, but rather a cool, calming balm that opens our eyes to the real contours of ourselves.

One would have the hope that he would become real by reducing expectations, shrink to a hard, reliable core and thus be immune to the pain and disappointment. But how would it be to live a life that banished every long, bold expectation, a life where there were only banal expectations like “the bus is coming”?


Citations are from : o bálsamo do desilusão/The Balm of Disappointment (Disillusion) – from Night Train to Lisbon (Pascal Mercier)



Picture by Food.for.Thoughts
Picture by Food.for.Thoughts
Picture by Food.for.Thoughts










Picture (1) credits: Wiki page Night Train to Lisbon

24 thoughts on “Some kind of book review: Night train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier.

  1. How interesting and thought-provoking. You are right, disappointment is almost always framed negatively …and that can cause us to fail to notice all the positive lessons the experience teaches us. Thanks for highlighting this … and you’ve also piqued my interest in the book!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always thought that disappointment is dispelled a very straightforward thought experiment, I think. Imagine you are the most successful soccer player ever. Pele, Maradona, Messi, Ronaldo or someone. You win titles, cups, world cups. And you get older and slower, and one day you have to retire, and the plaudits cease. How do you live with yourself? But, of course, you do. Disappointment is incidental, we should not get too hung up on it.
    Incidentally, I know very little of Portugal, either. I read quite a lot about the Spanish Civil War (years ago) but bypassed Portugal.

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    1. When we mess up it is not that much of a deal (it matter a bit in which area) but people live on. Whether you learn from it and let go or you let it go. Either way we can’t move forward by living in the past. Still, on my deathbed, I would like to think that I was a decent human being. Maybe without awards (except from the blogging ones 🙂 ) but still decent.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good stuff 🙂 I find when I pay attention to disappointment, I’m tempted to be reckless and not give a shit. To jump into life unafraid. Or I’m tempted to do nothing because nothing matters. Oh what a vicious cycle. Eventually I think I balance out and just do what needs to be done and feeling kind of numb about it.
    What a great passage to share.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Best would maybe be not to give a sh*t but when you do, don’t overdo it! It is what it is, just a disappointment or something that can lead you to what you really want/need.
      I can read and write in circles! 🙄😊 It’s the perfectionism I tell you, it’s a curse!

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  4. That sounds like a fascinating book! And the excerpt about disappointment actually makes me want to read the book now!
    I read a similar book which I found extremely charming and lovely, called ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’, and I’ve been looking for books with similar styles to read just because I loved that book so much, so this one sounds like a good option!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Now I’m going to look for the save button, where can I find it? (I’m just a few months over here, but never saw it either!)


      2. It’s in the WordPress reader list view. Right before you click on a post to read the full entry. There’s a few lines describing the post with a Save option below it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. That is a great meditation on the value of disappointment! Now that I think of it, I have had instances where disappointment has exposed or crystallized an unconscious rule I carried that led to the disappointment.

    For instance, when I read Three Souls by Janie Chang, it ended right before what felt like it should have been the climax. I was enraged, yet as I thought about why I was enraged, I realized it was because I expected that if a question is repeated constantly and drives the plot, it should be answered in the end. Of course, life isn’t so tidy, but I felt I could expect that in fiction. I can’t say that experience helped me accept the uncertainty of life, but it did cause me to vow never to do that to a reader if my plans of becoming a writer come to fruition. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a good guideline! Now that I think of it, disappointment is only led by our own expectations. ‘Life isn’t so tidy’ is a good sentence to have in the back of our minds.
      Thank you for this comment, it gives me great inspiration for a future post about those expectations we may have.

      Liked by 1 person

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