The Witches of the World (and the man who writes about them)

A few years ago, just after I was able to walk again after my failed hip replacement (we are talking late 2003, early 2004 here) I started a beautifull friendship with the florist of my local market, as I decided to do my balcony/patio full of plants as a bit of therapeutic something (taken that they wouldn't let me go to work).

One of the first things she did, on knowing I am a Brazilian, was talk about Paulo Coelho. With some intensity. She said to have read all his books to the date, how wonderful he was, how iluminated and…whatever we all say when in love with something or someone. I had to admit, not without a bit of shame as this guy seemed so big a writer, that I knew nothing of him or his books.

At the time, I had my friend Wokka staying with us, and, taking that he was (well,still is, somewhere in the universe of the United Kingdom of Great Britain) such an informed guy, knowdleageable in all things of the world of people who buy books, I asked him if he knew him.

Yes, he said, he is OK, a good writer, but I think people just like to mak a big fuzz, nothing much, to me.

And then I forgot all about him.

Until recently, when my pain levels took me away from the computer or any kind of activity which did not involve being in bed, and I cme across 2 of his books at the local library. I decided to give it a go.


The Alchemist I decided to read first, as I knew the other one was his last book, and the name rung a bell with memories of my youth.

And then I realised why Wokka had dismised Coelho so promptly. We are (Wokka and I) so different, so muh of two worlds appart, not so much because of the age difference (he is 17 years younger) but because of the way we see the spiritual world. And Coelho is all about that: your spiritual world. And how beautifuly put down into words.

Stil, all along my reading it, I felt that this was a book which would've taken me like it took my florist some 30 years ago. I understood all the *fuzz* about the author, I was as passionate and entusiastic with the authors and books which helped me understand myself and formed my path many, many years ago.

But with this I don't mean you shouldn't read it if you are my age, not at all. I enjoyed enormously reading it, just smiling in certain passages the smile of recognising images, and in a way or another seeing part of my fighting with my heart all those years ago. I had the marvelous gift of being curious and adventurous very, very young, and I have the luck (?) of coming across books, people, experiences which showed me the way, but I'm sure there are people my age who have started looking at life in a different way just recently. I have to say that I have also purchased the book, so when sarita is a bit older (and starts liking reading!) she can read it. Beautiful, wonderfully written book. But I wasn't all that impressed……


…..until I started reading The Witch of Portobello.

Then, I travelled to the world I inhabited many years ago again, but this time so gripped in the story, so submerged into discovery apart from the recognising similar paths, then he (Coelho) gained my unconditional respect, love and readership.

The Witch of Portobello is the story of Athena, told by her mother, a British journalist, an actress, her landlord and many others who make her story, the story of a woman in her search…. 

Though I didn't followed Athena's path, I was one of those women who started suffering very early in life, but whose pain as just the tool for a higher path. Though my life had some very different turns, still I found in the book lots of my feelings put into beautifull (again) words.

I think I should point out that Paulo is a Catholic.

(what follows is extracted from an interview by Valerie Reiss)

In your work you often point to contradictions between the church's rules and the Bible's teachings. Do you have anything to say about a hypocresy here? 

I only can say about my religion and being a Catholic. I am a Catholic because I choose to be a Catholic. And  then I go to Mass because I choose. It is out of my free will. But then, when sometimes I see the human touch [in] the scred rituals, you say, Oh My God, that's not exactly what Jesus said. Jesus was much more open and- he was full of the joy of living.. Because he was the one who was always travelling, surrounded by women, drinking wine. You know, having fantastic cnversations wuith the disciples.

In my church, now more than before, they are going against the natural flow of human kind. This new Pope is a disaster, to put it plainly…. I'm not ging to defend a Pop who is agaisnt, for example, condoms. I'm not going to defend a Pope that thinks we are still in medieval times and that the Catholic faith is the only one to be right. And then you ask, why do you consider [yourself] to be a Catholic if you don't agree with this Pope and many priests and bishops? I say because, well, my religion is more important than the men who are trying to guide it.

But the ritual of the Mass and the words of Christ – well, we'll survive this pope. The Mass is a mistery. And, for me, the perfect ritual.


I know I'm not telling much about the book, if this was an article for a paper I would be turned down by the editor, but I'm just glad that I can get my mind together to overpower the medication and, at least, say something about the books and the author. If I learned something in the past few months is that, if I want to write, I have to get to it, even if it doesnt make total sense (to others) , because if I let time go, all these amazing toughts for the words I have when reading something, listening to something, or just purely looking at life unfold, if I don't put it into words relatively quickly, the thoughts leave my mind completely. Then comes regret. I we don't like regets, do we?

But hey, here is Paulo himself,  

Have I said that I'm so, so happy to be able to sit at the PC and read and write? 

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About thelatinmrspeel

in the process of moving blogs, so more will come later
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One Response to The Witches of the World (and the man who writes about them)

  1. Luke says:

    I like Coehlo too. My Catholic friend recommended to me that I read the Alchemist. Some of it is a bit cheesy, but it's an easy and enjoyable read. I'm not religious myself, but I do like a lot of the ideas he brings up and the ways he presents different issues. He's a very intelligent guy and maybe I should read that other book you mentioned too. I don't read much because I feel so busy, but you definitely learn a lot even from reading fiction – even if just about yourself and how you see things. Nice post, thanks :o)

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