I had read this novel when it first came out, in german, was wildly enthusiastic about it and found no one with whom I could share my feelings and thoughts concerning this great book. Now it is translated and you can profit. Great literature, beautiful writing, complicated but intensely interesting plot.
Mercier, which is his nom de plume, is a linguist at the Free University in Berlin and forever interested in origins. This book deals with a pedantic scholar of Classics who, suddenly has a slightly mad impulse to go to Lisbon in search of an enigmatic portuguese aristocrat whose book he had discovered in a second hand bookshop. Earlier in the day he had, quite fortuitously run into a woman who was looking for the toilet in the halls of his university. She also came from Portugal. This so otherwise predictable man sets off on a rather mysterious quest to find out about the author and is thus propelled by a deep inner need to find out more, ever more going along a path of mysteries and coincidences which by their nature force the reader to follow him breathlessly.
Mercier is the author of three novels; this is the last and the best. I started with it and then read the other two, but probably that was not a good idea. This book sums up the others. It is the perfect culmination, so far, of his work.
Do read it.