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Archive for May, 2009

The Winner Stands Alone – Paulo Coelho

Set on the backdrop of Cannes film festival, “The Winner Stands Alone ” is Paulo’s latest offering for you, which might take you by surprise both with a smile and a frown.For those who love Paulo’s exclusive style might end up being disappointed.But for others it is definitely a decent , quick read. Spanning 24 hours during the Cannes Film Festival, this scintillating novel is about a wealthy Russian businessman Igor Malev, who’s obsessed with his ex-wife, Ewa, now married to a fashion designer Hamid Hussain. Igor turns into a serial killer to get Ewa’s attention. No one suspects him as Igor targets a street vendor, an influential movie distributor, a distresses woman and a big-name actor in amazingly sophisticated manner. In order to draw Ewa’s attention, Igor sends her messages saying ”he has destroyed worlds for her” but fails to draw her attention until they meet at a gala supper. In the midst of all these Paulo gives a good overview of what has sadly become a universal truth – the celebrity, fame and the perceived glory of the ‘Superclass’. Coelho takes Cannes as an alibi to comment on the elite’s elite, the rich and the famous, their lives,agony and a very superficial lifestyle. In short a tale about an rich man , committing few murders to win his lost love along with a host of other characters, their lives, dreams and fantasies, all in the city of Cannes.
Am at a fix. . I actually don’t believe that I have just finished a Paulo Coelho novel. I will not say this novel doesn’t have anything good about it, but it certainly doesn’t match the standards Coelho has set for himself..I always felt the magic of Coelho’s novels lies in its characterisation, but unfortunately this novel looses out on its characterisation the most. Too many characters that did not add any positive impact to the plot. In fact I found them absolutely insignificant. I completely failed to understand why the author introduced so many characters in the novel. And since each character had a story in itself it did make the story very dragging at times.He tried to tell a lot of things through each one but failed to make a point with anyone.My disappointment lies in the fact that I always rooted for Paulo’s characterisation.Perhaps his men and women were always people whom I could identify myself with. But unfortunately in this novel, he fails miserably with his players. Most of them are stereotypes and the only intriguing character who could probably hold your interest is Igor. Sadly his portrayal is so half hearted that even though he is the protagonist you still don’t look forward to any of his encounters with the other characters. Igor justifies that everything is fair in love even if it boils down to killing people. Coelho hints that Igor’s “dual” character is like the one in modern society, in that it can be rational and objective on the one hand (as a businessman), and wildly illogical on the other. A successful businessman on one hand and an insane lover on the other, Igor could have been little more interesting unlike its cold and unidimensional portrayal.
I wanted to call this novel a psychological thriller but choose against it. When I began reading I actually expected a lot of twists and turns with mysteries and surprises. But to my utter dismay nothing of this sort unfolded. It was as simple as that, a man trying to win back his wife’s attention by killing host of people around him…I wonder how on earth one can justify this…! The book was generally just very negative, which is very unlike Coelho. He made it seem that everyone is unhappy, and there is no way that anyone at any position or situation or lifestyle can ever achieve true happiness. Everyone was miserable in the book, the businessman, the writer,the actors, the directors, the distributors, the journalists, and models, the assistants, the police officers, and the general public.In general too, there is not a single character you feel for. This is because they are just too typically portrayed, devoid of any depth or imagination.
With Paulo, you expect him to tell a story, pause and pop up some enlightening profound thoughts.That’s exactly what he did here, his usual mysticism and spirituality boosts the plot to some extent but sadly doesn’t make any difference to the stotyline as such. I miss the optimism of Coelho all along this novel which I look for. And at the end all, we are left to ponder with some cold blooded murders and a very very predictable ending which actually leaves you with no other choice than to feel absolutely disappointed.
All I would like to console myself thinking that this time Paulo attempted something different, detached from his usual style of writing, both in terms of subject and technique. Perhaps something he wanted to do for a long time, take a detour from his usual writing. Fair enough, though I would prefer him to be little more careful while venturing into this kinda literature .
Well, this novel though made me sad, will certainly not stop me from reading and reviewing his other works.I will look forward for them with even more zeal as am expecting a complete soul stirrer next time. But for now, with ”The Winner Stands Alone”, Paulo does stand alone, not sure though if as a winner !!!!

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By The River Piedra I sat Down And Wept – Paulo Coelho

Spirituality, Mysticism, Optimism and Love. thy name is Paulo Coelho. After I finished reading ‘The Alchemist’ , my expectations from ” By the River Piedra I sat Down and wept…” was high and I was surely not disappointed. I could sense the same aroma of Paulo’s brilliance as I did with ‘The Alchemist’. The only difference I believe is , this novel rides high on religion.

A tale of two lovers, “By the River Piedra…….” is a beautifully crafted love story, blended with composed actions,exotic locations, powerful characters and mesmerising folklore which certainly makes it an inspiring journey. Pilar, a student in the town of Zaragoza was suffocated with her daily life until she encounters her childhood friend whom she knew since her early days in a Spanish village Soria. The plot unfolds dramatically when Pilar realises that her friend has now become a renowned spiritual leader, which embraces femininity of God – paganism (Great Mother), the ancient fertility goddess, the Virgin Mary. And not only that ,her friend has the power to work miracles as well. Meanwhile, Pilar receives an invitation from hes friend for a spiritual event in Madrid where she is faced with a blunt truth- her friend’s love for her which he harnessed right from their childhood. And as he leads her on a magical journey through the French Pyrenees,which includes stays at hostels and visits to churches and chapels, the two find themselves at the monastery at Piedra where the two had spent time as young kids.It is here Pilar begins to realize that this chance encounter is
going to transform her life forever and that her friend must ultimately choose the path of his own life, his love or his spiritual journey.

At this juncture, Paulo subtly introduces ” the other” !!! A conflict we all have within ourselves and deal with as human beings.The part of our own psyche, the confusion, sense of denial, the fear and host of other emotions that prevents us from achieving what we aim for.Just like the fear of failure in “The Alchemist” prevents us from acheiving our goal…”I am afraid that great disappointments waits me, so I prefer to dream..”. In the same way the fear of rejection prevents lovers from expressing their feelings, their love. Pilar wonders and worries, as a result of the existence of ‘the Other’ that lives within her, what will happen to the love that she has for her friend and vice verse.

The magic of Paulo’s novels lies in his characterisation…so real …so down to earth. The moment you hit the first two pages you tend to flow with the characters and actually start living their lives. The characters and situations are so well crafted that you reach to another world with their dreams and fantasies. I found myself engulfed in Pilar’s world all through and as the novel ended I felt the way I should after reading any good book- happy and satisfied.. The novels definitely gave me a high, it leaves with lot of things to feel good about, also to think and relate to your own life.
“By the River Piedra….” is great. An excellent storyline written with even more excellent techniques.It is indeed a great read, thanks to the linguistic genius of Paulo. Paulo’s underline message through this novel is simple,… there are no rules when it comes to love, as there are no rules when it comes to worshiping the Almighty.As he puts it “to love is to be in communion with the other, and to discover in that other the spark of God”. The only limitation I feel is the spiritual inclination of the novel. The presence of the Goddess in friend’s life and his dilemma of choosing Pilar’s love, or accepting the duties for the betterment of the world, might hang lillte superficially on the readers mind. Paulo also talks about discovering spirits and through these lovers,  he wants to tell his readers that anyone and everyone can speak the language of angels and perform miracles. Little difficult to comprehend his idea of religion and God though.There is always an air of mysticism that lingers in his novel and “By the River Piedra……” is no exception.Readers who are used to Paulo’s style of writing will understand the depth of his words but for others it might end up being little absurd and vague.

Nevertheless, I must admit that Paulo’s novels are anytime a pleasure. A friend of mine after reading this novel said, ” I wish I were Pilar” and goes on to add… Paulo through this book made me believe that to love someone is to love life itself…..Perfect !!!!

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…..When you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true”….is what Paulo Coelho echoes all through this brilliantly written fable,The Alchemist, a story about believing your dreams and achieving them.

The author’s brilliance comes alive through this inspirational novel which skillfully combines words of wisdom, philosophy, and simplicity of language,that surely makes it a masterpiece and accounts for its bestselling status.

The Alchemist is a story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. He decides to pursue his dream and sets on a voyage leaving his home in Spain,travelling to Morocco and then Egypt, all in search for a special treasure. When he decides to go, his father’s only advice is “Travel the world until you see that our castle is the greatest, and our women the most beautiful”. Throughout his journey, Santiago sees the greatness of the world, and meets and learns lessons from all kinds of exciting people like camel driver, an Englishman, king and alchemists who seem to be placed in his path at the right moment, just when he needs them.And eventually with the alchemist he develops an ensuing student-teacher relationship which not only changes much of the boy’s misguided agenda but also inspires him to stay true to his dreams. “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy confides to the alchemist one night as they look up at a moonless night.”Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself,” the alchemist replies. “And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a seconds encounter with God and with eternity.”

However, by the end of the novel, he discovers that “treasure lies where your heart belongs”, and that the treasure was the journey itself,the people he met, the discoveries he made, and the wisdom he acquired.

The Alchemist is undoubtedly a masterpiece which can be readers delight for any age or group.It is a kind of novel which bubbles with optimism and positivity. It instills the confidence in you that everything is possible as long as you really want it to happen.What I liked about the book is that it teaches you to live your life to the fullest, live every moment by moment. Dream and have the courage to follow your dreams. Have fun and enjoy everything life has to offer, but don’t forget your destination. Let go of things that are not within your control. There is something to be learnt in everything we do and every move we make.”The Alchemist” is a novel that may appeal to everybody, because we can all identify with Santiago in someway or the other. We all have dreams and we all want them to come true.What we are longing is to be told that everything is possible and our dreams can come true, and Paulo manages to hit just the right chord by convincing the readers the same.

Paulo Cohelo’s overall writing techniques makes this novel a pleasurable experience.His usage of lucid language mingled with thought provoking phrases, captures the readers imagination and gets them to feel Santiago’s journey as their own.Simple yet thoughtful lines such as,’I am afraid that great disappointment awaits me, and so I prefer to dream” and ”simple things are the most valuable and only wise people appreciate them”, are certainly the hallmarks of this novel.Perhaps this is the secret of Coelho’s success: that he tells people what they want to hear, or rather he tells them what they wish for but never thought would be possible. He gives his readers hope !!

On the whole, The Alchemist is a must read for one and all. It will not only make you feel good but will motivate you to go ahead.It will tell you to believe in yourself ,it will convince you that everything is possible if you see in the right direction. The Alchemist is an inspiration,it is a healer and above all it gives you a new vision in life. So don’t miss it !!

The author says” I love you because the whole universe conspired for me to come close to you.”….stunningly beautiful thought, I must say, thanks Mr.Paulo !!!

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The 3 Mistakes of My Life

They say perfection is a habit and I actually believed it after reading the earlier two works of Chetan Bhagat.But ‘3 mistakes of my life’ the latest offering by Chetan Bhagat changed my notions….

Set in Ahmadabad one of the fastest growing cities in India, ‘The 3 Mistakes of My Life’ is the story of 3 friends and their struggle for existence through the thick and thin of life.The plot revolves around protagonist Govind Patel, a middle class boy with his passion  for business, Ishan,a cricket freak and Omi, a priest’s son and a loyal friend who is in for anything that his friends root for. An ambitious Govind with good brains actually feels that the only way of earning good bucks is through business.So much so that he strongly believes that a true Gujarati should only aim towards being a successful businessman. Ishann on the other hand is like any other Indian youth … a cricket freak.It doesn’t take a min for him to blame the cricket board and their useless selection procedures for his plight. Omi is much simple a person among the three. Being a priest’s son he is more into religious activities than the  other two.  Vidya (Ishann’s sister) is Govind’s love interest and Bitto mama (Omi’s maternal uncle) who turns out to be the villain of the novel.With an uncanny sense of accounts and  business Govind sets up a sports shop with help from Omi’s family in the temple premises. In this endeavor all his three friends support him. In order to expand the business Ishan starts cricket coaching  for young boys and ends up discovering an unusual talent in Ali, a 12 yr old kid and a very gifted batsman. Ishan  unknowingly starts living his cricket dream through him.Meanwhile a secret romance blooms up between Govind and Vidya,  who happens to be Govind’s student..

The plot revolves around these guys, there unassuming lives and their fight for existence . Romance, betrayal, failure, anger, friendship, loyalty ..every shade of emotion is available for taste. If I tell you the crux..Govind’s business fails, Omi dies while saving Ali during the  Godhra riots and Ishaan’s anger on discovering his sister’s romance with his best friend Govind are the three major incidents which turn around the lives of these three men, in short the three mistakes.

Disappointed ?? Yes !! I will stand by what i began with. First of all, the mistakes the author talked about,I don’t even consider them as mistakes. They are to me events that can happen to anyone anytime. The first half of the novel is interesting.But the second half is dark and dragging. The narration lacked its natural flow at places and the situations were predictable.Typical Chetan Bhagat style. I feel that Mr.Bhagat had our dear Bollywood in his mind when he decided to scribble his thoughts. The Godhra riots, one of the worst in Indian history and the earthquake could have been dealt a little more sensitively. Only using it as an alleby to take the story forward was not a matured call by an author like him whose previous two novels are bestsellers.  And just to sensationalize the plot some characters and events were penned. The sex scenes and over emotions were absolutely unnecessary and exaggerated at places. The flow was unnatural and it came across more as a movie script than a novel. Mr.Bhagat very well had in his mind how will a dream sequence in bondi beech, a sex scene on the roof top and on the other hand a communal riot will look in that 70mm screen. A complete movie masala I say.
The element of cricket !!!  Am not surprised. In India practically everything sells in the name of cricket, then why not a novel??? And when an Amir Khan starrer ‘Lagan’ on one hand and Imran Hasmi’s ‘Jannat’ both can hit the box-office with cricket, why not a story about a unsuccessful cricket aspirant, a gifted kid, a India Australia test series  coupled with romance, humour, emotion, riots !!!

Too much dissection is bad, I believe.the thing which touched me the most in this novel is the fact that its about India and for the Indians. The novel  explores the three obsessions of our country- cricket, religion and business. And also how religion and politics are deep rooted in the Indian society.The language he uses is simple and lucid. ‘He speaks our language’ a friend of mine quoted. Characters are ‘boy next door’ types, which one can relate to very easily.And his one liners are very interesting to read.Certain events are so authentically described that for once you actually feel like being in that situation. And few lines makes you feels that you would have wanted to say the same thing but could never phrase it out well.This book surely makes reading a enjoyable experience. Cannot compare it though with the previous two…but in someplace it does manage to strike a chord with its target audience – the youth. will not say its a must buy but with a price tag of Rs.95, it can always prove to be a good munch on a lazy weekend.  A good at temp but could have been much better with little more sensitivity, realistic depiction and cutting down unnecessary emotions.Better luck next time  !!!!

Oh!! last but not the least…Mr.Bhagat are you by any chance a Lord Krishna devotee??? First it was Hari, then Shaym and now Govind !!!  Are we to expect some Kishan or Kahnaiya or may be Gopal in the next ???

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