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Wednesday 30 October 2013

Book Review: Aleph by Paulo Coelho

About the book:

In his most personal novel to date, internationally bestseller author Paulo Coelho returns with a remarkable journey of self-discovery. Like the main character in the Alchemist, Paulo is facing a grave crisis of faith. As he seeks a path of spiritual renewal and growth, he decides to begin again: to travel, to experiment, to reconnect with people and the landscapes around him.Starting in Africa and then crossing Europe and Asia via the Trans-Siberian Railway, he undertakes a journey to revitiize his energy and passion. Even so, he never expects to meet Hilal. A gifted young violinist, she is the woman Paulo loved five hundred years before - and the woman he betrayed in an act of cowardice so far-reaching that it prevents him from finding real happiness in this life. Together they will initiate a path that teaches love, forgiveness and the courage to overcome life's inevitable challenges.
Are we where we want to be, doing what we want to do? 

My Review:

When I picked up the book and set out to read it, I had really high expectations from it. One may call it a pre-conceived notion that I had from Paulo Coelho's earlier books, especially The Alchemist and The Winner Stands Alone. With these works of his, he qualifies as a master storyteller. The Alchemist is one of the greatest inspirations I have had till date. So, when I put my hands on the Aleph, it was in the anticipation of some life-changing, thought-provoking, mindset-altering plot. Just as it always happens, I expected that after reading yet another of Coelho's books, I shall cease to remain the person I was prior to reading it.

Okay, now to the actual reading part. A fleeting reading of the prologue itself gave me the idea that the novel has gravity in both its content and intent. It is only and only about a spiritual journey, self-discovery, recuperation of a ruptured/drained soul.

But with as intriguing and arresting and engrossing a beginning as understated, I had obviously expected something different, something more rooted in contemporary    social and economic problems. But this is not to say that the eventual storyline is below or above my expectations, it isn’t, it’s just different and in sharp contrast to my conjecture. Also, since it involved deep and thought-provoking spiritual elements, instead of reading it from crepuscule to dawn, I preferred to defer it for the mornings of the days, lest my eyelids falter and droop.
So, about the plot, the theme and the hovering concepts...
It is as much a story about spirituality as it is about love. Well, in his trademark fashion, Coelho touched upon subjects that are still debatable if not taboo. So there's the notion of being able to love two people at the same time, without hinting at betrayal of any sort. But considering the fact that this is Coelho’s autobiographical account, I must commend him for having the courage to reveal something so personal to the world.
Then the cherry on the cake are the pithy comments, sharp insights that dive into the oceans of wisdom, such as ,”Life is the train, not the station.”, “life without cause is a life without effect.”, “words are tears that have been written down, tears are words that need to be shed.”, “what cant be cured must be endured”

Also, a treat to the reader is a faint echo from his masterpiece The Alchemist. At one point, he mentions that god allows us to see such things when he wants something to change, a thought that found a unique significance in the former. Further there is a reference to the famed saying in an altered form “when you really want something the whole universe conspires in your favour.” even here he reads meaning into things, thereby lending them the status of omens. So when a clairvoyant declares that “the soul of Turkey will give your husband all the love she possesses, but she will spill his blood before she reveals what she is seeking.” he delays the journey, but undertakes it nevertheless. This is the most scrumptious part of the meal that Aleph is. And that brings us to the plot of the story. He feels that his spiritual progress has met with an insurmountable barrier. So he embarks on a journey as an author, which means he is into book signing sessions, conversations with his readers, et al. On this journey he meets Hilal, and that changes the equation of his life, or should I say it brings into balance the equation of his life. There's this dose of rituals, history, atrocity, revenge, redemption. Whether the ritual or ideas manifested in the past that Hilal and the author share is demeaning to womanhood is a question that’s best left unanswered, but the sexual references as in most of his books are quite disgruntling and marred by a forceful inclusion.

Somewhere along the plot, I did feel like abandoning the book because it lost the pace, charm and enthralling element that had initially attracted me to it. But there's nothing like completing a book that exudes a mystery, a revelation waiting to be unearthed.

And the fact that Coelho's books are indispensable to the sojourn called life, only adds to the thrill of reading till the last line.


  1. I really liked your blog and have nominated you for the Liebster Award. You can visit the link to complete the procedure.

    1. Thanks a lot! Will revert back with the formalities shortly. :-)
      It is an immense pleasure.


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Kritika's bookshelf: read

Angels & Demons
The Story of My Life
The Hunger Games
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
A Tale of Two Cities
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
Sense and Sensibility
A Christmas Carol
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Time Machine
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Da Vinci Code

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