"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.
In the early hours of April 17, 1912, two nights after the sinking of the Titanic, a man named Pilgrim, author of a renowned book on Leonardo da Vinci, steps into the garden of his London home and hangs himself. Amazingly, five hours later his heart starts beating again, and he revives. Findley (Headhunter; The Telling of Lies) is at his peak in this story of a man who cannot die, but has grown so weary and despairing of life that he longs only to escape it. Pilgrim, under the care of his wealthy friend Lady Sybil Quartermaine, is removed to the Brgholzli Psychiatric Clinic in Zrich, where Carl Jung, a principal doctor, is persuaded to take on his case. Is Pilgrim mad, or is Jung, struggling to find himself as a theorist and to sustain his uneasy marriage, the one who is deluded Did Pilgrim dream of the fate of the Titanic victims, and is he dreaming now of the carnage of the coming world war Did he, as his journals attest, know da Vinci, know St. Teresa of Avila, help build the great cathedral at Chartres The story moves back and forth from Pilgrim's mind to Jung's, to Pilgrim's journals as they're being read by Emma Jungwho seems to understand Pilgrim's dilemma far better than her husband does. Ambitious doesn't half describe a novel that includes an eyewitness account of the death of Hector in the Trojan War, appearances by Henry James and Oscar Wilde, and both the woman who posed for the Mona Lisa and her reincarnated self as the man who's just stolen it from the Louvre. Aimed at the general reader, not James scholars, Jungians or fans of Virginia Woolf's similarly premised Orlando, this is a polished and exhilarating entertainment that's challenging, mystifying and expertly crafted, even if its kaleidoscopic perspective is no longer entirely fresh. 4-city author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 23, 2001
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Excerpt from Pilgrim by Timothy Findley
Inside the front doors of the Burgholzli Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich, a nurse named Dora Henkel and an orderly whose name was Kessler were waiting to greet a new patient and his companion. Their arrival had been delayed by a heavy fall of snow.
To Kessler it seemed that two wind-blown angels had tumbled down from heaven and were moving towards the steps. The figures of these angels now stood in momentary disorientation, reaching out with helpless arms towards one another through windy clouds of snow, veils, shawls and scarves that altogether gave the appearance of large unfolded wings.
At last they caught hold of one another's hands and the female angel led the male' whose height was quite alarming' beneath the portico and up the steps. Dora Henkel and Kessler moved to open the doors to the vestibule, only to be greeted by a gale of what seemed to be perfumed snow. It was nothing of the kind, of course' but it seemed so. The female angel -- Sybil, Lady Quartermaine--had a well-known passion for scent. She would not have dreamt of calling it perfume. Flowers and spices are perfumed, she would say. Persons are scented.
For a moment, it seemed that her male companion might be blind. He stood in the vestibule staring blankly, still maintaining his angel image -- six-foot-six of drooping shoulders, lifeless arms and wings that at last had folded. His scarves and high-necked overcoat, pleated and damp, were hanging draped on his attenuated body as if at any moment they might sigh and slip to the marble floor.
Lady Quartermaine was younger than expected -- not by any means the dowager Marchioness she had seemed in her rigid demands and almost military orders' issued by cablegrams five and six times a day, to be delivered by Consulate lackeys. In the flesh, she could not have been more than forty -- if that -- and was possessed of a presence that radiated charm and beauty with every word and gesture. Dora Henkel instantly fell in love with her and, in some confusion, had to turn away because Lady Quartermaine's beauty had made her blush. Turning back, she bobbed in the German fashion before she spoke.
"Most anxious we have been for your journey, Lady Quartermaine," she said, and smiled -- perhaps with too much ingratiation.
Kessler moved towards the inner doors and pulled them open' stepping aside to let the new arrivals pass. He would call this day forevermore the day the angels fell. He, too, had been smitten by Lady Quartermaine and her romantic entry with a giant in her wake.
In the entrance hall' an efficient figure in a white coat came forward.
"I am Doctor Furtwangler, Lady Quartermaine. How do you do "