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ISBN: 006019197X

Language: English

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Harper Trade

Lowest Price: $3.59



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Timothy Findley's Pilgrim is the story of a man who can't die even though he tries over and over to kill himself. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, in 1912 he's placed in a Zurich clinic where Carl Gustav Jung is hard as work trying to determine the perimeter of the collective unconscious. For Jung, this man becomes an embodiment of the psyche's mystery. Claiming to have no past history but to have simply arrived one day at consciousness, Pilgrim lives in a limbo outside individuality and subjectivity. He's everyone and no one. Is he a messenger? Or is he a basket case? As the novel gathers momentum, we realize that Pilgrim is a character much like Virginia Woolf's Orlando, traversing gender and time, a witness. But whereas Woolf is a feverish and emotional writer, Findley is philosophical and dry, playful and slightly pretentious. Imagining conversations between Pilgrim and Henry James, Leonardo da Vinci, and Oscar Wilde, this novel is like a party full of beautiful guests. Or a safe train trip through an exotic landscape of consciousness where men use cologne that smells like "moss... lemons... ferns" and schizophrenics are elegant and well dressed, like the old countess who believes she lives on the moon and asks her doctor, "Is this a ballroom? Am I being courted?" --Emily White

Customer Reviews of Pilgrim


From the very first page, author Timothy Findley insinuates his haunting prose through the multi-layered folds of your mind, bringing about a trance-like ecstacy...which continues till the very last word.

The story of Pilgrim, an enigmatic soul in the form of a man, is found hanging from a tree, an apparent suicide. Rumors of his death, however, are greatly exaggerated, for this is not the first attempt he has made on his own life and recovered to tell about it. The hanging that begins this story, though, comes to the attention of Carl Gustav Jung, the noted psychotherapist, who is just coming into his own at the time of Pilgrim's untimely un-demise. To relate the rest of this epic retelling of such historical events as the creation of the Mona Lisa, or the life of Oscar Wilde, one would be denied the ultimate pleasure of experiencing it for ones self! Findley takes events that have been endlessly documented and gives them a fresh voice, a daunting task, to be sure. Not since reading Caleb Carr's "The Alienist" has this reviewer enjoyed such a vivid and imaginative story from beginning to end. And not the fun-for-the-moment satisfaction of many of todays novels...but a true, deep-seated satisfaction that lingers in the soul. Pilgrim's search for "eternal peace" and the simultaneous epiphanies experienced by Herr Doktor Jung, weave together some of the most fascinating thoughts and images in print today. It was an enthralling read, and one that I would highly recommend to any literary enthusiast or weekend historian.

A Different Kind of Novel

This is one of my favorite books. It's definitely a different kind of novel. It has a melancholy undertone that is purposeful and deliberate and keeps the reader in an emotional state with the lead character whose unique situation would lend to restlessness and brooding. I loved the weaving of history and fact with this work of fiction and Timothy Findley handled each situation beautifully. If you are longing for the typical novel, you won't find it here... thank goodness.

an important book

different than i had imagined, yet no less enjoyable. the reincarnation theme i thought would have been expanded to more throughly explore past times, yet the ending makes up for it. the condemnation of art, of creation, yet mans incessent need for it, his own reason and undoing. quite a theme. the magnatude took some time to sink in. a very thoughfully, and tactfully written book. quite subtle.

Canada's Gem

If you're looking for a diversion or a fun, entertaining read that features a movie plot, you might want to skip this one. If you're looking for literature that actually challenges you, you should definitely consider this book. Mr. Findley's world is one of compelling ideas, fully-realized characters, and some of the best, atmospheric writing I have ever come across. It's not material you can digest right away. It's writing from which you'll gain more with each re-read.

The world lost one of its very best writers when Mr. Findley died. A tragedy for those of us Americans who had only just been introduced to him.


I've read all the other reviews and it seems almost everyone has a different slant on this book. I'm not sure I, myself, understood what it actually was supposed to be about. I wish Mr Findley would clue us in to his purpose or what he wanted to accomplish with this novel. In any case, it is beautifully written, contains wonderful storytelling and has characters that you care about. In this day of instant gratification, this book requires concentration and imagination. Once read, I think the reader feels enriched. Not such a bad thing.

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