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Pilgrim by Timothy Findley

Pilgrim (1999)

by Timothy Findley

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Canada (and the world) lost a great writer when Timothy Findley died. Each time I read one of his books I am struck anew at what an interesting and varied writer he was. This book, written in 1999, is another example of his intelligent exploration of a subject.
Pilgrim is the name of an Englishman who has been brought to the Burgholzli Clinic in Switzerland to be treated by the psychiatrists there. Pilgrim’s friend, Lady Sylvia Quartermaine, was concerned by his suicide attempts and his current inability to speak. Pilgrim is installed at the clinic and Lady Quartermaine, her maid and Pilgrim’s valet move into the nearby Hotel Baur au Lac. Initially Pilgrim was seen by Doctor Furtwangler but Lady Quartermaine was not happy with him and asked for Carl Gustav Jung to treat him. Jung had just started to move away from Freud’s theories and his exposure to Pilgrim’s story helped him solidify his theory of the collective unconscious. Pilgrim claimed to be unable to die and remembered past lives all the way back to the Trojan Wars. He was an apprentice to his father who was a stained glass maker involved in making the windows of Chartres Cathedral; he had been a disabled shepherd boy who first witnessed St. Teresa of Avila perform a miracle; most famously he had lived as Elisabetta Gherardini whose portrait by Leonardo da Vinci is known as Mona Lisa. As much as the story of Pilgrim this is the story of Jung. Findley freely admits that much is fiction, including the whole cloth of Pilgrim’s story, but it serves to expose Jung’s astonishing life.
I have never read much in the fields of psychology and psychiatry but I have often felt that the practitioners of these fields are drawn to it because of their own mental needs. Certainly this portrayal of Jung shows him as a deeply flawed man with episodes of depression and obsessions that would now be treated with pharmaceuticals. It was fascinating to me to see how he used these problems to develop his theories that underpin much of current psychiatric practice. Lots to ponder in this book which I have only briefly summarized so read it for yourself if what I have written sparks an interest. ( )
1 vote gypsysmom | Mar 23, 2017 |
Immortal or madman? A story that mixes history, memory and madness with hints of the myth of the Wandering Jew. Findley brilliantly blends history and fiction. I was revetted by Pilgrim's story. The use of dreams, journals and memory was very creative. A great reminder of why I love Findley's work. ( )
1 vote musecure | Jun 8, 2013 |
Timothy Findley shows some of the most painful things about being human, most often malevolent people who make normal people (sic) like me miserable or in great danger. So you are scared to read what he has to say about real life because it is so horrendous, but you are still so drawn to it that you cannot stop. One of my top favourite Canadian authors. It is too bad that he has died, but he still had a very long career covering quite a lot of years. It is satisfying to read his books over and over again. I think I have at least 8 or 9 of his volumes. Will go and count again. Mental illness is definitely one of the most painful topics to deal with in his books. Perhaps because he shows that it is so widespread.
2 vote libraryhermit | Apr 24, 2010 |
An engaging and enjoyable story line that is wrapped around Jung's "discovery" of the collective unconscious. A good read for generating a bit of philosophical ponderance. ( )
2 vote padE11 | Sep 6, 2009 |
Well written, although I found it lost some momentum during the second half of the book. I like the unresolved aspect of the main character - Pilgrim... was he an immortal or was it mere madness? The issue is never resolved. I identified more with Emma Jung than Carl Gustav. I never knew about his concubine and how he thrust that on his children as well as his devoted wife. What a schmuck. ( )
  innermusic | May 31, 2009 |
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Our story...is much older than its years, its datedness is not to be measured in days, nor the burden of age weighing upon it to be counted by orbits around the sun; in a word, it does not actually owe its pastness to time. -- Thomas Mann, foreword to The Magic Mountain, 1924
There is no light at the end of the tunnel, only a pack of matches handed down from one generation to the next. Humanity does not have a long fuse and this generation holds the last match. -- JonArno Lawson, Bad News, in The Noon Whistle, 1996
In memory of Michael Tippett, not only a child of our time, but of all time. And for Meirion Bowen who made the journey with him.
Here is no final grieving, but an abiding hope. Michael Tippett, a child of our time, 1944.
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In the early morning hours of Wednesday, the 17th of April, 1912, a man called Pilgrim walked bare-footed into the garden of his home in London at number 18 Cheyne Walk.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060929375, Paperback)

On April 17, 1912 -- ironically, only two days after the sinking of the Titanic -- 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 to beat again.  Pilgrim, it seems, can never die. Escorted by his beloved friend, Lady Symbol Quartermaine, Pilgrim is admitted to the famous Burgholzu Psychiatrist Clinic In Zurichm, where he will begin a battle of psyche and soul with Carl Jung, the self-professed mystical scientist of the unconscious Slowly, Jung coaxes Pilgrim to tell his astonishing story -- one that seemingly spans 4,000 years and includes such historical figures as Leonardo da Vinci and Henry James. But is Pilgrim delusional?  Are these his memories merely dreams...or is his immortal existence truly a miracle.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A man who can foresee tragedies hangs himself after the sinking of the Titanic, but his heart resumes beating. The famous psychiatrist, Carl Jung, treats him and discovers a man who has lived for centuries, having fought in the Siege of Troy and modelled for da Vinci's Mona Lisa, a man unable to die.… (more)

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