Paulo Coelho, Author, Margaret Jull Costa, Translator
Paulo Coelho, trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa. Knopf, $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-70018-6
Reviewed on: 08/15/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
In this chimerical tale, protagonist Paolo embarks on a journey to remedy his dissatisfaction with life, a frustration he feels despite enjoying the accoutrements of success. Given that his world includes clairvoyance, Divine Energy, and time-travel, Paolo's is not the usual existential crisis. His present-day troubles, in fact, can be traced to betrayals during a previous incarnation that took place during the Inquisition. When he encounters Hilal, a woman he wronged, complications arise from their shared experience in The Aleph: "the point at which everything is in the same place at the same time." Given the couple's history, Paolo's response is curiously practical and distant: "reopening old wounds is neither easy nor particularly important. The only justification is that the knowledge acquired might help me to gain a better understanding of the present." Although the novel requires ample suspension of disbelief, there's no better author to serve such a work than Coelho (The Alchemist)—his main character bears the weight of the sometimes ambiguous and wandering narrative with pithy reflections. (Sept.)
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