Architecture in Contemporary Literature

Night Train to Lisbon: On the City, Identity, and Belonging

Author(s): Melike Yenice * .

Pp: 136-147 (12)

DOI: 10.2174/9789815165166123010018

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


The plot of the book Night Train to Lisbon is about Raimund Gregorius, a teacher of ancient languages at a high school in the city of Bern and known for his monotonous and ordinary life, who begins to question his life after an unexpected event he experienced and his search for his own identity. In this quest, Gregorius comes across the book of Doctor de Prado, who had similar inquiries but lived in another time and place. The book takes him to Lisbon, the city where de Prado lived. The book is read as an inner journey that Gregorius made himself, following the footsteps of the place where Doctor de Prado lived, along with/beyond his physical journey to another city. In the book, the question is whether it is possible to have a different kind of life, a different way of being in the world, beyond the limits of the life that the individuals draw about their life, outside the life patterns they have established. In this sense, the article reads this journey of Gregorius through the effect of being in another place – as the city and space – and the experiences gained in this city on identity and belonging. The memories and experiences of someone who lived in another city, a journey made in the language and history of the city, and the effect of the inner feelings and traces of one's own feelings on the identity and belonging of the individual are being questioned. At the same time, inferences are drawn about the mutual dialectical effect of identity and space—the spatial counterparts of the elements that make up the identity of the individual and the reflection of spatial features on the individual's identity. The chapters of the book are approached within this framework and constitute the titles of the article. Part I, The Departure, is read through the individual's journey to another city in the pursuit of his own identity and different life possibilities; Part II, The Encounter, is read through the encounter of another identity and belonging area; and Part III, The Attempt, is read through the possibilities of being in different areas of belonging in other places and times. In Part IV, The Return, Gregorius returns to the city of Bern. But at the end of his journey, it is seen that he has developed a sense of belonging to both cities. 

Keywords: Alienation, Bubenberg square, Bern, Belonging, City, Familiarity, Identity, Journey, Kirchenfeld bridge, Lisbon, Language, Memory, Night train to lisbon, Non-places, Pascal mercier, Portugal, Space, Spatial memory, Urban memory, Urban identity.

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