Thursday, November 22, 2007

A review of The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho

I found Paulo Coelho’s The Valkyries a bit of an enigma. I suspect the author at least partly intended it to be so. In a nutshell, the author seeks to discover new aspects of his psyche, to develop new angles on his existing skills. After a consultation with his mentor, he and his wife set off for a jaunt in the Mojave Desert to find what it is that they seek. Our author is in engaged in a quest, a search for his personal Angel. The reader, I am sure, will be convinced from the start that she accompanied him throughout.

They wander off in full sun one day, take their clothes off (for some reason) and have to be rescued by Gene, who has seen it all before. He reassures the travellers that they will find their valkyries. And they do. They turn out to be a band of leather-clad women on motorbikes, ladies who have profound mystic powers which they practise amidst their regular partying.

I was a bit perplexed by the narrator who claimed to have trained as an engineer in one breath and then discussed the existence of the universe in terms of ancient Greek elements. I suspect that the high performance motorbikes relied on a rather more complex analysis of matter. But honing the skills of a magus apparently requires the application of ancient knowledge, no matter how wrong, whatever the context. And sure enough the revelations come flooding in and lives are duly transformed. I have just a suspicion that there is something in the observation that no matter what one does with reality, spirituality is necessarily a personal experience, its significance purely internal, even when shared with others.

The Valkyries has all the Paulo Coelho elements. There are short scenes presented in a variety of literary shorthand. The text is suffused with magic, religiosity and self-realisation set in an earthly medium. It’s a quick and easy read but ultimately a satisfying one, even for someone like myself, who cannot suspend belief long enough to share in the book’s experiences.

But Paulo Coelho is a magus and a magician of the highest order. He has sold over 90 million books and, as a writer myself, I will read more of his books in the hope that I might discover his magus touch, his waft of a wand that will reveal his secret. Even without sympathy for the detail, it’s a lovely, rhythmic read.

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