Friday, August 19, 2011

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

I enjoy this author's writing and some of his insights but this book with all its mysterious encounters and events is just a little too woowoo, even for me. I also found it confusing that it is classified as 'fiction' yet reads like a personal travelogue; did these things really happen, or didn't they? Apart from a few memorable quotes, I was not impressed.

Here Paulo Coelho details his journey across Spain along the legendary road of San Tiago, which pilgrims have travelled since the Middle Ages. On this contemporary quest, he encounters a Chaucerian variety of mysterious guides and devilish opponents and learns to understand the nature of truth through the simplicity of life. The Pilgrimage holds an important place in Paulo Coelho's literary canon. His first book, it not only paved the way for his phenomenal novel The Alchemist, but it also fully expressed his humanist philosophy and the depth of his unique search for meaning. (back cover)

When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don't even understand the language the people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach much more importance to the things around you because your survival depends on them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to help you in difficult situations. And you accept any small favor from the gods with great delight, as if it were an episode you would remember for the rest of your life. pg35

The village was no longer just a place where I could warm my soul with a glass of wine and my body with a blanket; it was a historic monument, the work of heroic people who had left who left everything behind to become a part of that solitary place. The world was there around me, and I realized that seldom had I paid attention to it. pg43

The good fight is the one that's fought in the name of our dreams. When we are young and our dreams first explode inside us with all of their force, we are very courageous, but we haven't yet learned how to fight. With great effort, we learn how to fight, but by then we no longer have the courage to go into combat. So we turn against ourselves and do battle within. We become our own worst enemy. We say that our dreams were childish, or too difficult to realize, or the result of our not having known enough about life. We kill our dreams because we are afraid to fight the good fight. pg57


Tracy said...

I enjoyed The Alchemist, and from the snippets you've quoted it certainly sounds like the same voice, the same journey.

A pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella has always appealed to me, so I would be interested in trying this book, although I'd certainly bear your reservations in mind.

Trish said...

tracy - yes, it's still worth reading. I just didn't like it as much as The Alchemist.

Amy said...

I have yet to read any of Paul Coelho's books but I have him on my list of authors to read. I don't think I'll start with this one when I do read him. I like the premise but it does sound a bit confusing and also fantasy-like. Maybe part of that is because it was his first book. I may read this one day but I think I'll start with something else.
I appreciate your honesty and laughed at your comment "this book...just a little too woowoo..." I completely understood whay you were saying!

Trish said...

amy - you're right, sometimes an author's first book isn't his or her best work, which is probably the case here. I'm looking forward to dabbling in some of his other books as I come across them.

Raine said...

My friends raved about his books and tried me to make me read one but I'm still apprehensive. If they weren't too far from me (like in the city), I'd borrow their copy. :D I thought "The Alchemist" was the first one though.

Trish said...

raine - I just checked the publication date on my copies to make sure: The Pilgrimage 1987 and The Alchemist 1988. Both of these are for the original Portuguese versions. They didn't come out in English until the '90s.

That's great if you can borrow a copy to try it out. Mine was an old used copy that came from a thrift store . . . so I wasn't too disappointed when it didn't click with me ;)