Alchemist of words or universal hippie babbling?
That photo shows Yehudi Menuhin with the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho at the 1999 World Economic Forum in Davos. During my frequent explorations of esoteric paths I am very aware of the danger of what David Hare, with scathing reference to Peter Brook’s style of directing, describes as “a universal hippie babbling which represents nothing but fright of commitment”. For me that universal hippie babbling is epitomised by the books of Paulo Coelho. As Coelho has sold more than 100 million books I must be one of the very few people on this earth with that opinion of his writing, and, believe me, I have tried many times to prove myself wrong. Last year I took The Alchemist to France to see if a different environment would throw a fresh light on that global best seller. But, alas, I found it – again - no more than a trite distillation of perennial wisdom that fails to encourage further exploration of those important traditions outside Coelho’s copious title list. In the continuing search for enlightenment I recently borrowed Fernando Morais’s biography of Coelho - which describes the novelist as “an alchemist of words” - from the library. I should have been warned by its “authorised” imprimatur and publication by the same multi-national corporation as Coelho's novels, so just let’s say that abandonment came before enlightenment. Am I the only one that does not 'get' Paulo Coelho? And strange to see Menuhin getting on famously with the former dabbler in hallucínógens and the occult, because elsewhere the violinist railed against “naked Beatniks of all sexes”.
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