|Pilgrim (1999) [Novel]|
by Timothy Findley
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(From the publisher):
"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.
Original title: Pilgrim
Genre: Fiction→ Historical→ European→ 20th Century
Fiction→ General Fiction→ Mental Illness
Fiction→ General Fiction→ Literary Fiction/classics