Review: ‘Aleph’ by Paulo Coelho

“The Aleph was about two or three centimetres in diameter, but all of cosmic space was there, with no dimunition in size. Each thing was infinite, because I could clearly see it from every point on the universe.” – Jorge Luis Borges, “The Alpeh

Hello everyone,

Let’s start off this post by accepting the bare fact yet again, of just how lazy I am, just how faithful towards my procrastination standards and just how much I take my blog for granted. Having berated myself publicly, I would now like to redeem myself by telling my all-too-active conscious that most probably, I’m the only one following up on my blog and since there are as such no regular, religiously following readers to speak of, let’s save on the electronic space available (not that it needs any saving) and just get on with the review and assume no time has passed at all in the middle of my last post ages back and this one today.

Funny that we should come onto the topic of “time” and how I’m assuming here that “time has not passed”, this being one of the recurring themes of Paulo’s latest book ‘Aleph’. Let’s look at the synopsis:

“The Aleph is an encounter with our fears and our shortcomings – a search for love and forgiveness, and the courage to confront the inevitable challenges of life.

Each end gives us the opportunity for a rebirth.

Aleph marks a return to Paulo Coelho’s beginnings. Facing a grave crisis of faith, and seeking a path of spiritual renewal and growth, Paulo decides to start over: to travel, to experiment and to reconnect with people and the world. On his journey through Europe, Africa, and Asia, he will again meet Hilal – the woman he loved 500 years before – and this encounter will initiate a mystical voyage through time and space, through past and present, in search of an opportunity to rewrite his own destiny.

Page count: 300

My take: Ah. Now where does one begin to talk about such a book which expands across so many themes: reclaiming one’s lost kingdom, finding peace within oneself, past lives, reincarnations, forgiveness… I could go on for a couple of lines. Also, Paulo is someone MOST of readers have heard of, not to mention the millions of people following his advice and his paths to make their lives better.

As always, I’ll try to keep my views as respectful as I can and only talk honestly about how “I” find it.

I’ve read quite a few and loved some (The Alchemist, Brida, The Zahir) of Paulo’s work but this is certainly not one of them. Firstly, the book has TOO many themes I feel. The most dominant one is about Paulo’s past life and how he wronged some people in his previous incarnation and wants to set things right in this one, and live peacefully in all the other reincarnations he is going to have. Other themes somehow interfere with this central one and provide too many breaks from the main “river”-central theme, forming rivulets and you tend to find yourself wondering how we came to  be drifting in this direction when the book isn’t even about it.

The start of the book was quite promising and my favourite bit because it comes across as something everyone can easily relate to. You learn so many things in life, so many words of wisdom touch you, make you learn about life, love, suffering, redemption..but as life goes on we tend to forget those teachings, those words mean lesser and lesser to us and we find ourselves right at the start. Back to square one. Because all those things which gave us profound meanings now meaning next to nothing and our spiritual growth has stopped and we are stagnating. Paulo starts off with a feeling of irritation and frustration at his incapability to grow and he wants to set things in motion once more. His spiritual teacher guides him and thus begins his journey- literal and figurative.

Paulo himself may have reset his life, overcome his past and so on, but I don’t think the book has anything to give to the reader on a personal level. Even the inspiration usually found in Paulo’s work is missing from this one. It feels as if the entire story and journey is tailor-made for only him and we have nothing to gain from his experience.

I do not believe in reincarnations, past lives and the such and so the main theme lacks all attraction for me. If even a person were to believe in it, they wouldn’t really have any help in it from this book. He strictly advises against the use of  the practices he performs to get in touch with his past. The woman concerned in the plot, Hilal, comes across as a childish, arrogant woman refusing to deal with life just as everyone else is, the best way they can think of, and one does not relate to her neither feels any sympathy, just irritation at her attention-seeking antics.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed and found really nothing good in this one. Paulo himself comes across as someone getting all too irritated and lost over small things. It feels as if this book was published just so something or the other would come out of the long time he spent on the Trans-Siberian Railway, not as a work of true inspiration.

A last minute note. At one point, Paulo quotes 2 separate verses from the Holy Quran and he interprets these as indicators in Islam showing that reincarnations are true and that we live and die and live again and again. I would like to set this right and strictly condemn the translating of Quranic verses to mean anything we would like them to mean. As Muslims, we beleive there are meanings of the Quran we understand and many many many other meanings in the Quran which we cannot possibly comprehend and which are known only to Allah. Islam has told us quite clearly that this life on Earth is a one-time happening and after that we go to Allah, not back to this Earth. I hope Paulo Coelho won’t be interpreting Quran completely wrongly again in the future and he should rather stick to the correct interpretations he does when he uses the teachings of Islam themselves.

Hoping the next one would be good.

You may like it if:

  • You are an avid follower of PauloCoelho and usually love all his work.
  • You are a believer in his principles and faith and rituals

You many not like it if:

  • You do not believe in Paulo’s teachings.
  • You do not like books talking about spiritual paths.
  • You do not believe in reincarnations.

Have you read Aleph yet? What do you think?