From the Publisher
“A new tale of magical longing. . . . Masterful.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Coelho is a novelist who writes in a universal language.” —The New York Times
“It’s time for American readers to set out on a journey of discovery that will lead them to the works of this exceptional writer.” —USA Today
“[Coelho’s] books have had a life-enhancing effect on millions of people.” —The Times (London)
“Spiritualists and wanderlusts will eagerly devour The Alchemist author’s fiery diatribes about love, fear, and the search for all things meaningful.” —The Washington Post
“Aleph is a book written by the soul, and for the soul. At once tender and fiercely courageous, it challenges you with an embrace while seducing you with a discerning blade that points directly at the heart of what matters most in life and death. And when you have finished the last word on the last page, even if your logical mind doesn’t completely understand all that you’ve read, your eternal spirit will be dancing with joy.” —Cecilia Samartin, author of Broken Paradise
“Vivid, captivating. . . . So engaging that readers will not want to put it down for even a fraction of a second. As the author sets out on his journey, the reader gets the sense that, he too, is embarking on the same voyage.” —The International Herald Tribune
“[A] chimerical tale. . . . There’s no better author to serve such a work than Coelho.” —Publishers Weekly
“Enigmatic. . . . An illuminating book.” —The National
“Borges set the standard that Coelho capably upholds. . . . Coelho the writer is both discerning and revealing of Coelho the protagonist, whose enthusiasms we share.” —The Washington Independent Review
In this chimerical tale, protagonist Paolo embarks on a journey to remedy his dissatisfaction with life, a frustration he feels despite enjoying the accoutrements of success. Given that his world includes clairvoyance, Divine Energy, and time-travel, Paolo's is not the usual existential crisis. His present-day troubles, in fact, can be traced to betrayals during a previous incarnation that took place during the Inquisition. When he encounters Hilal, a woman he wronged, complications arise from their shared experience in The Aleph: "the point at which everything is in the same place at the same time." Given the couple's history, Paolo's response is curiously practical and distant: "reopening old wounds is neither easy nor particularly important. The only justification is that the knowledge acquired might help me to gain a better understanding of the present." Although the novel requires ample suspension of disbelief, there's no better author to serve such a work than Coelho (The Alchemist)—his main character bears the weight of the sometimes ambiguous and wandering narrative with pithy reflections. (Sept.)
Best-selling inspirational author Coelho was having a crisis of faith, so he did what we all do in that situation: he traveled through Europe, Africa, and Asia and met again with a woman he loved 500 years ago. His books having sold over 130 million copies in 160 countries in 72 languages, you know there's an audience.
The latest spirituality-lite novel from Coelho (The Winner Stands Alone, 2009, etc.).
The narrative focuses on a character named Paulo who has had a wildly successful novel (The Alchemist, 1993) and who is embarking on a book-signing binge on the Trans-Siberian railway, stopping at various spots from Moscow to Vladivostock. Paulo, it seems, is in the midst of a spiritual crisis, for life has lost its savor. His spiritual guru, cryptically named J., advises him to reconnect to his life by getting into the present moment, a mystic space called the Aleph. Paulo agrees, for after all he claims that, "To live is to experience things, not sit around pondering the meaning of life"—as though any good could come out ofthatsort of reflective activity. Paulo's wife is all in favor of having him take this journey—or perhaps she's interested merely in getting him out of the house for a while. Just before the journey begins, Paulo meets Hilal, a violinist who can bring him to tears with the beauty of her playing. She seems familiar to Paulo, however, and it turns out that he's known her before—roughly 500 years before, when he had been a monk and she had come before the Inquisition for having had sexual relations with Satan. They've both been given another opportunity together in the present so Paulo can make amends, both to Hilal and to several other women he'd mistreated in cosmic time. While he finds himself sexually attracted to Hilal, he remains technically chaste—well, kind of, though it's possible his wife might not see it that way.
For readers who admire books filled with goofy yet endearing spiritual clichés such as, "Death is just a door into another dimension."
Read an Excerpt
"Remember the Aleph. Remember what you felt at that moment. Try to bring into this sacred place something that you don't know but that is there in your heart. If necessary, think of a favorite symphony and let it guide yo to where you need to go. That's all that matters now. Words, explanations, and questions won't help; they'll only confuse something that is already quite complex enough. Forgive me, but let that forgiveness come from the depths of your soul, the same soul that passes from one body to another and learns as it travels through nonexistent time and infinite space.
“We can never wound the soul, just as we can never wound God, but we can become imprisoned by our memories, and that makes our lives wretched even when we have everything we need in order to be happy. If only we could be entirely here, as if we had just woken up on planet Earth and found ourselves inside a golden temple, but we can’t.”
“I don’t see why I should forgive the man I love. Or perhaps only for one thing, for never having heard those same words on his lips.” A smell of incense begins to waft toward us. The priests are coming in for morning prayers.
“Forget who you are now and go to the place where the person you always were is waiting. There you will find the right words, and then you can forgive me.”
Hilal seeks inspiration in the gilded walls, the pillars, the people entering the church at this early hour, the fl ames of the lit candles. She closes her eyes, possibly following my suggestion and imagining some music.
“You won’t believe this, but I think I can see a girl, a girl who isn’t here anymore but who wants to come back . . .”
I ask her to listen to what the girl has to say.
“The girl forgives you, not because she has become a saint but because she can no longer bear to carry this burden of hatred. Hating is very wearisome. I don’t know if something is changing in Heaven or on Earth, or if my soul is being damned or saved, but I feel utterly exhausted, and only now do I understand why. I forgive the man who tried to destroy me when I was ten years old. He knew what he was doing, and I did not. But I felt that it was my fault, and I hated him and myself. I hated everyone who came near me, but now my soul is being set free.”
This isn’t what I was expecting.
“Forgive everything and everyone, but forgive me, too,”
I ask her. “Include me in your forgiveness.”
“I forgive everything and everyone, including you, even though I don’t know what crime you have committed. I forgive you because I love you and because you don’t love me. I forgive you because you help me to stay close to my Devil, even though I haven’t thought of him for years. I forgive you because you reject me and my powers are wasted, and I forgive you because you don’t understand who I am or what I’m doing here. I forgive you and the Devil who touched my body before I even knew what life was about. He touched my body but distorted my soul.”
She puts her hands together in prayer. I would have liked her forgiveness to have been exclusively for me, but Hilal is redeeming her whole world, and perhaps that is better. Her body starts to tremble. Her eyes fill with tears.
“Must it be here, in a church? Let’s go outside into the open air. Please!”
“No, it has to be in a church. One day we’ll do the same thing outside, but today it has to be in a church. Please, forgive me.”
She closes her eyes and holds her hands aloft. A woman coming into the church sees this gesture and shakes her head disapprovingly. We are in a sacred place; the rituals are different here, and we should respect the traditions. I pretend not to notice, and feel relieved because Hilal, I realize, is talking with the Spirit who dictates prayers and the true laws, and nothing in the world will distract her now.
“I free myself from hatred through forgiveness and love. I understand that suffering, when it cannot be avoided, is here to help me on my way to glory. I understand that everything is connected, that all roads meet, and that all rivers flow into the same sea. That is why I am, at this moment, an instrument of forgiveness, forgiveness for crimes that were committed; one crime I know about, the other I do not.”
Yes, a spirit was talking to her. I knew that spirit and that prayer, which I had learned many years ago in Brazil. It was spoken by a little boy then, not a girl. But Hilal was repeating the words that were in the Cosmos, waiting to be used when necessary.
Hilal is speaking softly, but the acoustics in the church are so perfect that everything she says seems to reach every corner.
“I forgive the tears I was made to shed,
I forgive the pain and the disappointments,
I forgive the betrayals and the lies,
I forgive the slanders and intrigues,
I forgive the hatred and the persecution,
I forgive the blows that hurt me,
I forgive the wrecked dreams,
I forgive the stillborn hopes,
I forgive the hostility and jealousy,
I forgive the indifference and ill will,
I forgive the injustice carried out in the name of justice,
I forgive the anger and the cruelty,
I forgive the neglect and the contempt,
I forgive the world and all its evils.”
She lowers her arms, opens her eyes, and puts her hands to her face. I go over to embrace her, but she stops me with a gesture.
“I haven’t finished yet.”
She closes her eyes again and raises her face heavenward.
“I also forgive myself. May the misfortunes of the past no longer weigh on my heart. Instead of pain and resentment, I choose understanding and compassion. Instead of rebellion, I choose the music from my violin. Instead of grief, I choose forgetting. Instead of vengeance, I choose victory.
“I will be capable of loving, regardless of whether I am loved in return,
Of giving, even when I have nothing,
Of working happily, even in the midst of difficulties,
Of holding out my hand, even when utterly alone and abandoned,
Of drying my tears, even while I weep,
Of believing, even when no one believes in me.”
She opens her eyes, places her hands on my head, and says with an authority that comes from on high, “So it is. So it will be.”