Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aleph-Paulo Coelho


Paulo Coelho

Knopf, Sep 27 2011, $24.95

ISBN: 9780307700186

Although an international acclaimed author, Paulo faces a spiritual crisis. He tells his Tradition guide J. that he believes his journeys are over as he can no longer grow. J. suggests he get out on a rejuvenation tour to meet people that will lead him to the Aleph where time is a constant sameness and force him away from dwelling on his previous lives. Reluctantly at first he visits six countries which energize Paulo for the first time in awhile.

Two months into his pilgrimage, Paulo is scheduled to ride the Trans-Siberian railway between Moscow to Vladivostok; making stops on his book tour of Russia. At his hotel in Moscow, Hilel the violinist introduces herself to him before leaving. The next day at his book singing, she is back. Paulo denies knowing who she is but both know he is lying. During the Inquisition in previous lives, they shared the Aleph, but he cowardly betrayed her. He believes his actions towards her are why he cannot grow anymore. As they reconnect, each knows they need to forgive before they can bravely embrace their love and move closer to happiness in and out of the mystical Aleph.

Aleph is not an easy read as the protagonist, the woman he loves in their different lives and his guide tends to use metaphoric transcendentalist talk. The key cast is fully developed in the present arc and so are the glimpses into their past lives especially the inquisition incident. Those readers who appreciate something radically different will enjoy the journeys of Paulo and Hilel to try to cleanse their past if they want a happy future; but in 2006 Russia history seems on the verge of repeating what happened five centuries ago.

Harriet Klausner

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