PILGRIM by Timothy Findley

PILGRIM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Findley’s penchant for busy plotting is as evident here as in his earlier work (The Piano Man’s Daughter, 1996, etc.). This time, though, when a Tiresias-like character locks horns with analyst Carl Jung in the latter’s Zurich clinic, one expects the story to be rich with experiences past and present, conscious and unconscious. In a spring snowstorm in 1912, two weary travelers from London arrive at the famous BÅrgholzli Clinic—one, gaunt and mute, to be treated for suicidal intentions; the other, charming and lovely, to supervise. But Pilgrim, the suicidal one, has reason for his death wish: He can’t die, no matter how often he tries. His escort, Lady Quartermaine, knows this, yet she still wants to rescue him from despair. Shrewdly, Jung gets Pilgrim to talk again and also wheedles out of Lady Quartermaine one of Pilgrim’s journals, which reveals that the patient, a famous art historian, was acquainted more intimately with Leonardo da Vinci than seems possible. Jung can't accept the evidence that Pilgrim, in a previous form, was Leonardo’s lover and the model for the Mona Lisa, instead viewing this as an exceptional fantasy. When Her Ladyship dies in an avalanche, however, and leaves Pilgrim’s other journals to the bewildered doctor, he is soon out of his depth. The journals document Pilgrim’s lives as a 16th-century Spanish shepherd befriended by Saint Teresa; a stained-glass craftsman working on the windows of Chartres Cathedral; and a nobleman enjoying the action during the siege of Troy. Pilgrim’s adversarial attitude and Jung’s affair with someone at the clinic keep the psychiatrist from making progress with his patient. Eventually, Pilgrim turns violent and escapes, to fulfill what he sees as his final obligations. Some clever turns and echoes of Mann’s Magic Mountain, but in the end, Pilgrim’s many lives make him hard to know, and his nemesis Jung, for all his ambition, seems more inclined to chase skirts than such truth as might exist in the puzzle his patient embodies. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2000
ISBN: 0-06-019197-X
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1999




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