15 March 2014

Describing: Paulo Coelho

Coelho is almost sixty. His name, which has been given to a suite at the Hotel Ambasciatori in Rome and to a hot-chocolate drink at Le Bristol hotel in Paris, is pronounced Co-el-you. He is solid and short, with the capable, roughened look of someone who makes his living out-of-doors, and he dresses in black cowboy boots, black jeans, and black T-shirts.


His hair is white and shaved short, except for a little ponytail that sprouts from the back of his head. On his left forearm is a crude tattoo of a butterfly, which he and his wife...got in 1980, as a "wedding ring."

—Dana Goodyear, in "The Magus" (May 7), a profile of the Brazilian novelist who has sold almost 100 million books

* * *

Goodyear does a good job here. She never condescends to her subject, loathsome though he is, although, amusingly, she includes the following quote by Mario Maestri, "one of the few Brazilian critics who does not reflexively dismiss Coelho" (italics mine):
"In spite of belonging to different genres, Coelho's narratives and self-help books have the same fundamental effect: of anesthetizing the alienated consciousness through the consoling reaffirmation of conventions and prevailing prejudices. Fascinated by his discoveries, the Coelhist reader explores the familiar, breaks down doors already open, and gets mired in sentimental, tranquilizing, self-centred, conformist, and spellbinding visions of the world that imprisons him. When he finishes a book, he wants another one that will be different but absolutely the same."
I have a new favorite Brazilian literary critic.

My only squeak of protest is the second sentence of the article: I kept getting lost—and still do, reading it for the dozenth time—in the syntactical chasm between 'story' and 'of.'
"It is a story, told in 'A Thousand and One Nights' and in Rumi's 'Masnavi' and later adapted by Jorge Luis Borges—the version that Coelho, who is Brazilian, first read—of a man who dreams that he must leave home to find a treasure, and upon arriving at his destination, discovers that the treasure is in fact buried in his native land."
Hmmm, a bit easier to follow with the wide margins here, but still....

Originally published on May 3, 2007

2 comments:

Gillian said...

I can't stand that Paulo Coelho.

ccal said...

I do can stand Paulo Coelho, he is brasilian, so he speaks my language: portuguese. I find it pretty cute the way you wrote that he's name is pronounced "co-el-you", but that's wrong. Though, that's very difficult to be pronounced by non-portuguese/brasilian people. I sugest you to try. It's not like any other word you have, at least that I know, that 'lho'. You should read the Alchemist, which is one of the beautest and more pure books I've ever read. It's simple and acessible. Try it.

Kisses from portugal.