I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around,
and don't let anybody tell you different

-Kurt Vonnegut

Welcome to what once was Judge Jonathan. This blog is dead. Please click here to continue. (Or here, if you really insist.)


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Bad alchemy

Now it's not often that I read a book that has been recommended to me. This time, however, I was given the book itself along with the recommendation, and I had 10 hours of flight time to kill. So I sat down and read Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist.

The book had me puking by the first page. In the preface, entitled 'Ten Years On' (written in 2002, ten years after The Alchemist incomprehensibly became a bestseller), Coelho tells us that

we all need to be aware of our personal calling. What is a personal calling? It is God's blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something tht fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend.
On the next page, he then asserts, probably thinking of his own success, that
if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that if Coelho really is an instrument of God - if he is here to write books such as this one - God has become even more malicious than he was in the days of old.

The Alchemist is a book ripe with banal, trivial assertions that pretend to have some sort of wisdom attached to them. Favourable critics have called it a "modern fairy-tale". However, the fairy-tales I read as a kid were simple yet exciting stories with moral conclusions hidden underneath their layers. The Alchemist , however, is a complete failure on both levels - story and morale.

The only thing that makes the story of The Alchemist worth reading is its growing stupidity. The protagonist, whom Coelho calls "the boy" (how original), has succesive conversations with his own heart, the desert, the wind, the sun and lastly, of course, God. Granted, the twist at the end of the story provides a nice ending, but it's the first smart tactic Coelho employs. Needless to say, it comes too late.

As for the morale of the book - well that's pretty much summed up in Coelho's introductory comments. Everybody has their "Personal Legend", and when they want to achieve it, "the entire universe conspires in your favour" - in other words, some kind of mix between the American Dream and wild esoteric fantasies. Not only is this kind of thinking primitive and stupid, it can also be dangerous if taken literally. Hopefully, not too many people will buy into Coelho's views.

So what's the judgment? Judge Jonathan says: Don't buy this book. To prove my point, let's give a last, stupidly ridiculous word to Coelho himself:
The boy was beginning to understand that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it's all written there.
Whatever, man. I'm looking forward to the next book I'm gonna read, this time one that I bought on my own: Mother Night, by my favourite author Kurt Vonnegut. Judgment coming soon.


Anonymous said...

Jetzt wäre es natürlich interessant zu erfahren, wer dir denn dieses saudoofe Buch empfohlen hat!

(Ich wars nicht, ich bin nur der Typ, der diesen Weblog Kommentar-technisch entjungfert hat.)

Judge Jonathan said...

Und dafuer gratuliere ich dir... das Haeutchen ist gerissen, und nur Gott und Paulo Coelho wissen, wieweit es dieser Weblog bringen wird.

Zur Persoenlichkeit des beruechtigten 'Empfehlers': Das war mein Cou-Cousin, dessen Meinungen ich im Uebrigen immer hoch schaetze. Was wohl ein Beweis dafuer waere, dass Geschmaecker verschieden sind.