Prior to this year, I had never read a Paulo Coelho book, which is surprising being Paulo Coelho is one of the most famed Latin American writers of our times and I love all things Latin American.
Perusing through the stacks at the Main Library I came across Coelho’s book The Witch of Portobello and decided to give it a shot. I couldn’t put this book down. The protagonist, Athena, goes on a journey towards self discovery and enlightenment, as told by the people who knew her. Her story starts at an orphanage in Romania, where the poor gypsy girl was adopted by affluent Lebanese parents. After war breaks out in Lebanon, the family relocates to London, where Athena meets up with a group that dances to get themselves into a spiritual trance, a tradition from central Asia. Her seeking mastery takes her to the deserts of the middle east and in search of her birth mother in Romania. The story culminates with an ending that I did not see coming. A great book that touches on themes of love, spirituality, consciousness and much more.
Having loved The Witch of Portobello so much, I had to read Coelho’s most well-known book, The Alchemist. This book, which begins in Spain as a character who has already rejected the life of tradition in order to be a traveling shepard, decides to follow the advice of a mysterious king who advises him of treasure in the Pyramids of Egypt. Our character travels to Algiers, is robbed, and has to work in Algeria to recoup the money that was stolen so he can continue his journey. Working for a man who is a Muslim who never made a hajj to Mecca for fear that his life would peak and he would have nothing left after, he decides that he must continue on the path to finding his treasure. His journey takes him to the pyramids of Egypt and beyond. Read the prologue in this one, it is a must.
Paulo Coelho’s Best Story is a biopic of Paulo’s life. From being institutionalized in his youth to being a music executive, psychedelic drug enthusiast, and spiritual pilgrim himself, learn the story of the master. This movie is in Portuguese and Spanish with optional English subtitles.
Now I’m finishing up The Pilgrimage, which is just as captivating and intense as the other titles mentioned. As part of his initiation into a spiritual order, our protagonist has to make a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, or path to the tomb of St. James in Spain to find the sword that they had taken away from him. During the journey, his guide provides different spiritual exercises to help him change into someone deserving of his sword. This story has philosophical and religious overtones, plus lots of travel and adventure.
By the way, all of the book titles mentioned are available in Spanish in our catalog, and we actually have 14 Paulo Coelho titles in Spanish. Coelho writes in Portuguese, but it translates to Spanish marvelously.
Get ready for your own spiritual journey:Check out The Pligrimage/El Peregrino
Scott M. is the Assistant in the Office of Programs and Partnerships at East Liberty. When not busy running around with his two daughters, he likes reading non-fiction, learning languages, gardening and cooking.