Qurat ul ain Siddiqui
The year is 1912 and noted psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung is faced with a grave dilemma when a new patient is brought to the Bürgholzli Clinic in Zürich where Jung resides. The patient not only reveals to the psychiatrist the claim that he has lived forever but he also has proofs on various fronts to support his claim.
As Jung concentrates on keeping Pilgrim alive, he finds himself having to face his own feeble state of mind and his frail hold on sanity. This is especially manifested when he finds himself in situations of voluntarily believing the claims of his interesting and intelligent patient.
While reading through one of Pilgrim’s journals,
"Jung reached for his own notebook, shoving Pilgrim’s aside. Finding a pen, he wrote: "the life of the psyche requires no space and no time … it works within its own frame – limitless. No constraints. No confining. None of the demands of reason."
Go on, he decided. Keep reading. The question of voice would solve itself if he gave it a chance to speak unimpeded. Whether the voice was Pilgrim’s or someone else’s hardly mattered for now. The point was – the voice was there and clearly had its own integrity."
Findley has made good use of historical figures in the book. However most of it is fictional. This becomes somewhat uneasy for the reader but then Findley has not delineated these characters as meticulously and his primary focus remains Pilgrim. After Pilgrim, Carl Jung becomes the center of Findley’s attention. The greater part of the book swivels around these two. During one of the passages Findley also speaks of the then-debated estrangement between Freud and Jung which with time was to culminate in a complete schism.
Emma (Jung’s wife), while assisting her husband in his research so as to analyze and evaluate Pilgrim’s journals, develops a profound regard and sympathy for the patient, and would understand the underlying motivation behind his actions. However, at the same time, the continual philandering of her husband is a source of unspeakable sorrow.
"In his writings, she had found again and again a plea for the innate integrity of art. PAY ATTENTION! He had shouted in capital letters, over and over. But no one listened. Now, in order to draw attention to that integrity – and its double message of compassion and reconciliation – he was on a campaign to destroy the very presence of its most articulate voices."
Findley writes beautiful prose, which is as spontaneous as it is deep and there seem to be no unnecessary plot complications confronting the reader. He inspires his readers through his prose as innately as he seems to write, and allows a greater liberty to his readers instead of thrusting upon them judgments that have already been made.