Thursday, October 14, 2004

Me and Paulo (Coelho)

I am alarmed. My faith in the neat, immutable classifiability of people and things has been bestirred. Why is this? Because I stumbled across a Paulo Coelho interview on the Net (don’t ask how and why) and was traumatised by his answer to the question "What are your favourite movies?"

He answered thus:
Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West
Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel
Truffaut’s Day for Night

"But those are some of my favourite movies!" I cried aloud, unmindful of the Conscientious Colleague sitting next to me, doing what he is paid to do, ie work assiduously on a corporate story. "What is Paulo Coelho doing with my list? How can I possibly have anything in common with the man who wrote Manual of the Warrior of Light? And why would Paulo C have anything to do with a movie that has the word ‘exterminating’ in its title (even if there’s an ‘angel’ in it as well)?"

I’ve been trying to think of a single Coelho-ish moment in any of those films. Evil computer sends hapless human astronaut spinning, oxygen-less, off into the Great Unknown? Umm, nope. Bandit strings man up and and makes him stand on his kid brother’s shoulders so latter can be the instrument of his death? Nuh-uh. Sheep wander into a dining room and are slaughtered by bourgeosie-guests-turned savage? Naah. Pre-historic forerunner of man discovers use of tools that will raise him above other species, and promptly uses them to savagely bludgeon a member of another tribe? Nahin, nahin, nahin...

On learning further that William Blake is one of Coelho’s favourite writers, I was driven to the brink of despair; but the revelation that his favourite Blake work is the sunshiney Songs of Innocence (the late 18th century equivalent of the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations) drove me back to safety. At least Songs of Experience, that glorious paean to hopelessness and pessimism, is safe.

I know I wrote some pompous things about the all-inclusiveness of human experience a few blogs ago, but having to deal with this sort of thing firsthand is another matter. Paulo Coelho is now the Pet Shop Boy to my Eminem.

Oh well, as long as Dale Carnegie doesn’t admit to liking Philip Roth....

Paulo Coelho wrote: Everyday God gives us the sun, and also the moment in wich have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Our magic moment helps us to change and send us off in search of our dreams

William Blake wrote: Cruelty has a human heart, And Jealousy a human face; Terror the human form divine, And Secrecy the human dress.


  1. Cool post!
    Coelho´s newsletter is available at

  2. paulo c. writes variations of that in every book, i think...

    my favourite blake lines:
    To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour.

    love how simplicity and grandeur co-exist in his verse.

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  4. Couldn't it be possible that a work of art speaks differently to different people; like how different people view the same one world differently? He just said he likes those movies, maybe the 'why' is different. It could just be that those movies are extremely provoking.