Cover image for Pilgrim : a novel
Pilgrim : a novel
Findley, Timothy.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollinsPublishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
486 pages ; 25 cm
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"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.

Beautifully written, deeply evocative, and filled with a fascinating cast of historical characters, Pilgrim is both a richly layered story of a man's search for his own destiny and an absorbing, mind-expanding novel that explores the timeless questions of humanity and consciousness.

Author Notes

Timothy Findley was born in 1930. A native of Toronto, Canada, novelist and playwright Timothy Findley initially embarked upon an acting career. Findley worked for the Canadian Stratford Festival and later, after study at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, he toured Britain, Europe, and the United States as a contract player. While performing in The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, Findley was encouraged by the playwright to write fiction.

Influenced by film techniques, Findley's first novel, The Last of the Crazy People (1967) is a penetrating look at a family of "emotional cripples" from a child's perspective. With his character Hooker, Findley captures the irrational logic of a child's mind without treating childhood sentimentally.The Butterfly Plague followed in 1969. The Wars (1978), Findley's most successful novel, has been translated into numerous languages and was made into a film. The Wars uses the device of a story-within-a-story to illustrate how a personality transcends elemental forces even while being destroyed by them. In 1981 Famous Last Words was published. This fictionalization of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley by Ezra Pound, a work that was already a "fictional fact," examines fascism. In Not Wanted on the Voyage (1984),

Findley rewrites the story of Noah's Ark by giving voices to women, children, workers, animals, and folklore creatures, all of whom question Noah's authority. The novel turns into a parable that seems to challenge imperialism, eugenics, fascism, and any other force that endangers human survival. Again repeating an earlier text, Findley turns to Thomas Mann's Death in Venice to write The Telling of Lies (1986). This novel draws parallels between World War II atrocities and contemporary North America, which Findley sees as a metaphoric concentration camp.

Findley died on June 20, 2002 in Provence, France

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Best-selling Canadian author Findley, whose last novel, The Piano Man's Daughter (1996), was extremely well received, has worked on too immense a canvas in his newest work. Mental illness is his signature theme, and the early years of the century are his preferred time-frame, and Findley once again makes superb use of both, but he also ventures just far enough into the realm of formulaic fantasy to end up sounding as belabored as Anne Rice at her worst. Things begin dramatically when a man named Pilgrim hangs himself in the garden of his London home on an April morning in 1912. He appears to be dead, but, as has happened so many times before, he revives, reawakening to the living hell of immortality. What is he? The question hangs in the air like mist as he is hustled off to a psychiatric clinic in Zurich to be treated by Dr. Carl Jung. Refined, elegantly attired, tall, and handsome, Pilgrim will not speak. His friend, Lady Quartermaine, a beautiful and wealthy woman who wears dark glasses even inside, presents Jung with Pilgrim's diaries, and Jung, not yet famous, is astonished to read vivid, first-person accounts of the lives of Teresa of Avila and the woman who posed for Leonardo's Mona Lisa. It seems that his enigmatic patient has lived many lives, just like Tiresias, a figure out of Greek mythology who was doomed to live forever. Findley's research is prodigious, his history of psychology intriguing, and many individual scenes are truly compelling. But Pilgrim is a bore, Jung is cartoonishly boorish, and the saga as a whole is lugubrious. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 Brgholzli Psychiatric Clinic in Zrich, 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 JungÄwho 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Pilgrim shows up at a famous psychiatric clinic in Zurich in April 1912 after failing to hang himself in the garden of his London home. His entourage includes lovely personal friend Lady Quartermaine and some servants, but the details of his circumstances are mysterious and slow to trickle out. This inventive novel mixes many historical figures, from the not-yet-famous Carl Jung--who treats Pilgrim--to Gertrude Stein, as well as some more ancient personalities. Pilgrim, it turns out, is immortal, and he (or sometimes she) has witnessed and perhaps been had a hand in many important events in history, which his diary captures. This colorful novel by a noted Canadian novelist probably won't appeal to everyone, but it is still very entertaining and decidedly offbeat.--Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Pilgrim Chapter One 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?" She offered her hand, over which he bowed. Josef Furtwangler prided himself on his "bedside manner"-- in all its connotations. His well-practised smile, while popular with his patients, was suspect amongst his colleagues. Turning to the figure beside her, Lady Quartermaine said: "Herr Doktor, ich will Ihnen meinen Freund Herrn Pilgrim vorstellen. " Furtwangler saw the apprehension in his new patient's eyes. "Perhaps, Lady Quartermaine," he said' "for the sake of your friend' we should continue in English. You will find that most of us in the Burgholzli speak it fluently--including many of the patients." He moved forward' smiling, with his hand extended. "Mister Pilgrim. Welcome." Pilgrim stared at the proffered hand and rejected it. He said nothing. Lady Quartermaine explained. "He is silent, Herr Doktor. Mute. This has been so ever since ... he was found." "Indeed. It is not unusual." The Doctor gave Pilgrim an even friendlier smile and said: "will you come into the reception room. There's a fire, and we will have some coffee." Pilgrim glanced at Lady Quartermaine. She nodded and took his hand. "We would be delighted," she said to Furtwangler. "A cup of good Swiss coffee is just what the doctor ordered." She gave an amused shrug. "Which way do we go?" "Please, come with me." Furtwangler flicked his fingers at Dora Henkel, who scurried off to the dining-room across the entrance hall to arrange the refreshments while Kessler stood by, trying his best not to look like a bodyguard. Lady Quartermaine led Pilgrim forward. "All is well"' she told him. "All is well. We have safely arrived at our destination and soon you will rest." She slipped her arm through his. "How very glad I am to be with you, my dear. How very glad I am I came." Pilgrim . Copyright © by Timothy Findley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Pilgrim by Timothy Findley All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.