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Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
The protagonist in Night Train to Lisbon is Raimund Gregorius, a teacher of ancient languages in Switzerland. Gregorius has mostly spent a life of solitary routine, but a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman intrigues him about her language. He stops in a secondhand bookstore and finds an old book by Amadeu Prado, a Portuguese doctor. The shop owner translates the first pages for him and Gregorius is so taken by the book that he quits his job and takes the night train to Lisbon. When he arrives in Lisbon, he finds that Prado is dead. Gregorius tracks down every piece of information and contact he can find about Prado, coming to believe that Prado led a life that Gregorius wishes he had led. In researching Prado's life, he also helps bring resolution to those who had known and loved him. Pascal Mercier's novel has received positive reviews with the San Diego Union-Tribune saying, "But while Night Train to Lisbon does require active reading (even thinking), it rewards readers with the generous gift of beautiful writing and some unforgettable images: the burned, shaking hands of a torture survivor, the specific blue of Prado's house, the unbearable weight of new eyeglasses, the rattle and hum of an overnight train through an unfamiliar country. The reader is transported and, like Gregorius, better for having taken the journey."