jueves, 7 de julio de 2011

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho - a voyage to somewhere

Whenever I read Paulo Coelho, I feel I ought to be embarking upon a journey. But every time it seems that the trip merely revisits itself and, in the end, I always feel I am back where I started. Now it is just possible that this might just be the point, if point there be.

Surely, then, The Pilgrimage might have taken me somewhere. Obviously it is the story of a journey, and not just any journey. The author becomes a pilgrim and walks – well, almost – the length of the road to Santiago de Compostela. He starts in the French, nay French-Basque Pyrenees. He and his guide – I hesitate to use the word master, with a capital M, that Paulo Coelho employs – spend several days going round in circles. This surely is a premonition of what is to follow. In his eagerness to achieve an end, Paulo doesn’t notice the lack of progress. His guide tells him he is too eager to reach his goal, that he should recognise the value of experience along the way. It’s the only way to avoid self-deception. Perhaps that’s the point. Paulo takes the advice he is offered and eventually spiritual revelations reveal themselves.

The book lists several exercises for the reader to follow. You can find your Master, learn how to Breathe, feel your Blue Balls and utilise the Capital Letter, sometimes. And though I may have an idea about what Christianity might be, I declare no understanding whatsoever of what the Tradition might involve, despite the fact that it and the achievement of its apparently all-important Sword dominate the book. I was none the wiser at the end, but the advice offered that one should not sit on one’s Sword will be remembered.

Paulo Coelho is a gifted writer and devotees flock to read his books in their multiple millions. What they find there is, perhaps, what he found on his journey to Santiago, which is probably himself, themselves… The process is engaging and enjoyable. It is marginally informative, possibly pretentious, but extremely well done. Like the writer, the reader is drawn to the end of the journey and is left, as happens with most things in life, precisely none the wiser, inhabiting the same persona, suffering the same limitations as at the outset. But then we are also perhaps ready to embark upon the next chapter in the ongoing story. Been there. Seen it. Done it. Will repeat. Sound advice.

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