Arcs Timothy Findley Pilgrim

ISBN 13: 9780060191979

Pilgrim

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9780060191979: Pilgrim

"I have lived many times, Doctor Jung. Who knows, as Leda I might have been the mother of Helen--or, as Anne, the mother of Mary.... I was also crippled shepherd in thrall of Saint Teresa of Avila; an Irish stable boy and a maker of stained glass at Chartres.... I saw the first performance of Hamlet and the last performance of Moliere, the actor. I was a friend to Oscar Wilde and an enemy to Leonardo.... I am both male and female. I am ageless, and I have no access to death."

On April 15, 1912--ironically the very date on which more than a thousand people lost their lives as the Titanic sank--a figure known only as Pilgrim tries to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree. When he is found five hours later, his heart miraculously begins beating again. This isn't his first attempt to end his life, and it is decided that steps must be taken to prevent Pilgrim from doing himself further harm.

Escorted by his beloved friend, Lady Sybil Quartermaine, Pilgrim is admitted to the famous Burgholzi Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich, where he will begin a battle of psyche and soul with Carl Jung, the self-professed mystical scientist of the unconscious--who is also a slave to his own sexual appetites.

Hungry for intellectual and spiritual challenge, Jung is fascinated by this compelling and enigmatic patient who refuses to speak. Slowly, though, Jung coaxes him to reveal the astonishing story of his existence. Pilgrim claims to be ageless and sexless, having lived as both male and female for four thousand years. Asserting that he has witnessed the greatest events of human history, he recounts his involvement with numerous figures who have shaped world culture, including Leonardo da Vinci, Oscar Wilde, and Henry James.

For Jung, probing this patient's mind proves a challenge that is both frustrating and enlightening. Is Pilgrim delusional? Are his memories only dreams or something far more fantastic? Is it madness or a miracle? These interactions with Pilgrim have a profound and unexpected effect on the esteemed and controversial doctor's own life and sanity, for his dreams soon become entwined with those of his patient's, while the anchor of his soul, his marriage, begins to disintegrate. The puzzle called Pilgrim will seemingly lead either to Jung's salvation--or his damnation.

Beautifully written, deeply evocative, and filled with a fascinating cast of historical characters, Pilgrim is both a richly layered story of a man's search for his own destiny and an absorbing, mind-expanding novel that explores the timeless questions of humanity and consciousness.

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Review:

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

About the Author:

Timothy Findley's recent titles include Pilgrim, which was a finalist for the Giller Prize and his first published in the United States; You Went Away; Dust to Dust; and The Piano Man's Daughter. He was also the author of the acclaimed Headhunter, Not Wanted on the Voyage, Famous Last Words, and The Wars. His most recent play, Elizabeth Rex, won the Governor General's Award for Drama. His work has won innumerable honors, including the Governor General's Award for Fiction and the Edgar Award. He was the only three-time recipient of the Canadian Authors Association Award, bestowed for fiction, nonfiction, and drama. He was an Officer of the Order of Canada and, in France, Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He split his time between homes in Stratford, Ontario and the south of France. He died in France in June 2002 at the age of 71.

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