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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

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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.

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.

Intellectually nimble

I found Pilgrim to be a fascinating read. Part history, part psychology, part mystery, Pilgrim leads the reader on a circuitous journey. One needs to be intellectually nimble, to be able to suspend disbelief, and to have either a quick grasp of the wide historical range addressed...or have access to a good encyclopedia.Pilgrim is a man/woman/spirit/consciousness who has been admitted to a Swiss psychiatric hospital because of his repeated suicide attempts. All attempts, though seeming at first to have succeeded, actually failed, thus "condemning" him, somewhat like Woolf's Orlando, to live forever.His encounters with famous people throughout history constitute a remarkable chronicle of certain historical periods. His relationship with C.G. Jung, during the years when the latter was developing his theory of the collective unconscious, is particularly intriguing.I couldn't categorize this book as history, biography, fantasy, psychiatry, psychology, mystery. It defies many of the basic "rules" of any one of these designations and may, therefore, cause some discomfort in a reader who prefers strict logic, easy-to-follow story line, or predictable form. But it's quite a ride for those interested in the exploratory!

Spiritually enlivening

This work is entirely different from anything I've ever read. I appreciated the brooding tone of the story and the undercurrent of foreshadowing leading up to its climax. The ending was a little unorthodox and left me with a need for closure, however, I believe Findley does this purposefully as a way to compliment the mysterious and spiritual undertones of the plot. A comfortable, soothing read. Felt as if I were in a reverie, I could almost set it to music.

pilgrim:a novel

an absolute page turner Findley mixes history and fantasy without going over the top as so few writers are able to do

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