Raimund ‘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 (1) credits: Wiki page Night Train to Lisbon