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The Devil and Miss Prym

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Overview

A community devoured by greed, cowardice and fear. A man persecuted by the ghosts of his painful past. A young woman searching for happiness. In one eventful week, each of them will face questions of life, death and power, and each of them will have to choose their own path. Will they choose good or evil?

In this stunning new novel, Paulo Coelho dramatizes the struggle with every soul between light and darkness, and its relevance to our everyday struggles: to dare to follow our ...

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Overview

A community devoured by greed, cowardice and fear. A man persecuted by the ghosts of his painful past. A young woman searching for happiness. In one eventful week, each of them will face questions of life, death and power, and each of them will have to choose their own path. Will they choose good or evil?

In this stunning new novel, Paulo Coelho dramatizes the struggle with every soul between light and darkness, and its relevance to our everyday struggles: to dare to follow our dreams, to have the courage to be different and to master the fear that prevents us from truly living.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A struggle between good and evil unfolds in this full-bodied fable by the author of The Zahir. When a stranger arrives in an isolated mountain village, he brings with him a devilish offer: If anybody in the town is murdered within a week, every surviving resident will receive a fortune in gold. His evil instigation throws the townspeople into a moral tailspin that ends with a major plot surprise.
Publishers Weekly
New to the U.S. but first published in Europe in 1992, Coelho's latest (following the bestselling The Zahir) is an old school parable of good and evil. When a stranger enters the isolated mountain town of Viscos with the devil literally by his side, the widow Berta knows (because her deceased husband, with whom she communicates daily, tells her) that a battle for the town's souls has begun. The stranger, a former arms dealer, calls himself Carlos and proposes a wager to the town: if someone turns up murdered within a week, he'll give the town enough gold to make everyone wealthy. Carlos ensures people believe him by choosing the town bartender, the orphan Chantal Prym, as his instrument: he shows her where the gold is, confides that his wife and children have been executed by kidnapper terrorists (remember: 1992), and that he is hoping his belief that people are basically evil will be vindicated. Chantal would like nothing better than to disappear with the gold herself and thus faces her own dilemmas. Add in corrupt townspeople (including a priest), sometimes biting social commentary and, distastefully, a very heavily stereotyped recurring town legend about an Arab named Ahab, and you've got quite a little Garden of Eden potboiler. But the unsatisfying ending lets everyone off the hook and leaves questions hanging like ripe apples. (July 3) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Tormented by past tragedy and now searching to understand the good and evil natures of humanity, a stranger targets the remote town of Viscos for a spiritual experiment that involves tempting the youngest resident, the discontented Chantal Prym, with gold bars to see if she will hold fast to her religious beliefs or cast all aside for monetary gain. As part of their bargain, Chantal is required by the stranger to tell the town members of the gold, which will be freely offered to revitalize their declining town if they will break a commandment and kill one of their own. This enticing proposition throws all the townfolk into a grave moral crisis. Internationally renowned Brazilian novelist Coelho completes his "And On the Seventh Day" trilogy (By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept; Veronika Decides To Die) with a spiritually intricate tale told in a simple, straightforward manner that allows all to absorb and contemplate. Recommended for popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/05.] Joy St. John, Henderson Dist. P.L., NV Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Coelho's latest parable (The Zahir, 2005, etc.) has vague Kafkaesque overtones as a town is challenged to murder an innocent in exchange for prosperity. The small village of Viscos has a proud past, but at present is dying. All the young have moved to the city, leaving middle-aged shepherds and farmers and a tavern owner dependent on the occasional tourist in search of a mountain idyll. Its demise is only a matter of time as the world is in short supply of civic miracles. When a stranger comes to town, only old Berta sees what no one else can-that his invisible traveling companion is the Devil. The stranger invites Chantal Prym for a walk in the woods and there shows her two burial spots-one contains a single bar of gold, the other ten bars. It is a test for the town, and as the tavern's barmaid, Chantal is the chosen mouthpiece. The village can have the gold if in three days they commit a murder. Seeking an answer to the question of evil, the stranger is betting that humanity is immoral, even in the quaint village of Viscos. An arms manufacturer, the stranger's wife and daughters were killed by terrorists (using guns that he made), and ever since, he has had the Devil at his back and the eternal struggle between good and evil on his mind. Initially, Chantal refuses to speak, afraid of becoming complicit in the crime, but the stranger forces her hand, and soon the whole village knows of the proposed bargain. To Chantal's horror, the town accepts his offer (thanks in large part to the priest, who, eager for the deal to go through, offers a sermon on how the sacrifice of one saved humanity). Now Viscos has only to decide the victim, unless Berta and Chantal, the top choices, can changetheir minds. Filled with Coelho's trademark mysticism and philosophical anecdotes to illustrate a point, the brief tale is made finer by the Kafka- Shirley Jackson-derived motifs-the creepiness of a town eager for a murder offsets the author's tendencies to spiritual pontificating. A bit more playful than some of Coelho's other efforts, and all the better for it.
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Only someone Jesuit-trained could bring to Scripture the kind of coolly passionate imagination on display in Coelho’s latest novel.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“A suspenseful fable...satisfying.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060527990
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/3/2006
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, is one of the bestselling and most influential authors in the world. The Alchemist, The Pilgrimage, The Valkyries, Brida, Veronika Decides to Die, Eleven Minutes, The Zahir, The Witch of Portobello, The Winner Stands Alone, Aleph, Manuscript Found in Accra, and Adultery, among others, have sold 150 million copies worldwide.

Biography

His books have been translated into 56 languages, topped bestseller lists throughout the world, and scored him such celebrity fans as Julia Roberts, Bill Clinton, and Madonna; yet for Brazilian publishing phenom Paulo Colho, the road to success has been strewn with a number of obstacles, many of them rooted in his troubled past.

As a youth, Coelho was expected to follow in the footsteps of his father, a professional engineer. When he rebelled, expressing his intentions to become a writer, his parents had him committed to a psychiatric hospital where he was subjected to electro-shock therapy. He left home to join the 1970s countercultural revolution, experimenting with drugs, dabbling in black magic, and getting involved in Brazil's bohemian art and music scene. He teamed with rock musician Raul Seixas for an extremely successful songwriting partnership that changed the face of Brazilian pop -- and put a lot of money in Coelho's pockets. He also joined an anti-capitalist organization called the Alternative Society which attracted the attention of Brazil's military dictatorship. Marked down as a subversive, he was imprisoned and tortured.

Amazingly, Coelho survived these horrific experiences. He left the hippie lifestyle behind, went to work in the record industry, and began to write, but without much success. Then, in the mid-1980s, during a trip to Europe, he met a man, an unnamed mentor he refers to only as "J," who inducted him into Regnum Agnus Mundi, a secret society that blends Catholicism with a sort of New Age mysticism. At J's urging, Coelho journeyed across el Camino de Santiago, the legendary Spanish road traversed by pilgrims since the Middle Ages. He chronicled this life-changing, 500-mile journey -- the culmination of decades of soul-searching -- in The Pilgrimage, published in 1987.

The following year, Coelho wrote The Alchemist, the inspirational fable for which he is best known. The first edition sold so poorly the publisher decided not to reprint it. Undaunted, Coelho moved to a larger publishing house that seemed more interested in his work. When his third novel (1990's Brida) proved successful, the resulting media buzz carried The Alchemist all the way to the top of the charts. Released in the U.S. by HarperCollins in 1993, The Alchemist became a word-of-mouth sensation, turning Coelho into a cult hero.

Since then, he has gone on to create his own distinct literary brand -- an amalgam of allegory and self-help filled with spiritual themes and symbols. In his novels, memoirs, and aphoristic nonfiction, he returns time and again to the concepts of quest and transformation and has often said that writing has helped connect him to his soul. While his books have not always been reviewed favorably and have often become the subject of strong cultural and philosophical debate, there is no doubt that this self-described "pilgrim writer" has struck a chord in readers everywhere. In the 2009 edition of the Guiness Book of World Records, Coelho was named the most translated living author -- with William Shakespeare the most translated of all time!

Good To Know

Few writers are able to accomplish what Coelho can in just two to four weeks -- which is how long it takes for him to write an entire novel.

Before become a bestselling novelist, Coelho was a writer of a different sort. He co-wrote more than 60 songs with Brazilian musician Raul Seixas.

Coelho is the founder of the Paulo Coelho Institute, a non-profit organization funded by his royalties that raises money for underprivileged children and the elderly in his homeland of Brazil.

In our interview with Coelho, he shared some fascinating facts about himself:

"I have been practicing archery for a long time; a bow and arrow helps me to unwind."

"In writing, I apply my feminine side and respect the mystery involved in creation."

"I love almost everything about my work, except conferences. I am too shy in front of an audience. But I love signings and having eye contact with a reader who already knows my soul."

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    1. Hometown:
      Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 24, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    1. Education:
      Left law school in second year
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Devil and Miss Prym

A Novel of Temptation
By Paulo Coelho

Harper Perennial

Copyright © 2007 Paulo Coelho
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060528003

Chapter One

For almost fifteen years, old Berta had spent every day sitting outside her front door. The people of Viscos knew that this was normal behavior amongst old people: they sit dreaming of the past and of their youth; they look out at a world in which they no longer play a part and try to find something to talk to the neighbors about.

Berta, however, had a reason for being there. And that morning her waiting came to an end when she saw the stranger climbing the steep hill up to the village, heading for its one hotel. He did not look as she had so often imagined he would: his clothes were shabby, he wore his hair unfashionably long, he was unshaven.

And he was accompanied by the Devil.

"My husband's right," she said to herself. "If I hadn't been here, no one would have noticed."

She was hopeless at telling people's ages and put the man's somewhere between forty and fifty. "A youngster," she thought, using a scale of values that only old people understand. She wondered how long he would be staying, but reached no conclusion; it might be only a short time, since all he had with him was a small rucksack. He would probably just stay one night before moving on to a fate about whichshe knew nothing and cared even less.

Even so, all the years she had spent sitting by her front door waiting for his arrival had not been in vain, because they had taught her the beauty of the mountains, something she had never really noticed before, simply because she had been born in that place and had always tended to take the landscape for granted.

As expected, the stranger went into the hotel. Berta wondered if she should go and warn the priest about this undesirable visitor, but she knew he wouldn't listen to her, dismissing the matter as the kind of thing old people like to worry about.

So now she just had to wait and see what happened. It doesn't take a devil much time to bring about destruction; they are like storms, hurricanes or avalanches, which, in a few short hours, can destroy trees planted two hundred years before. Suddenly, Berta realized that the mere fact that Evil had just arrived in Viscos did not change anything: devils come and go all the time without necessarily affecting anything by their presence. They are constantly abroad in the world, sometimes simply to find out what's going on, at others to put some soul or other to the test. But they are fickle creatures, and there is no logic in their choice of target, being drawn merely by the pleasure of a battle worth fighting. Berta concluded that there was nothing sufficiently interesting or special about Viscos to attract the attention of anyone for more than a day, let alone someone as important and busy as a messenger from the dark.

She tried to turn her mind to something else, but she couldn't get the image of the stranger out of her head. The sky, which had been clear and bright up until then, suddenly clouded over.

"That's normal, it always happens at this time of year," she thought. It was simply a coincidence and had nothing to do with the stranger's arrival.

Then, in the distance, she heard a clap of thunder, followed by another three. On the one hand, this simply meant that rain was on the way; on the other, if the old superstitions of the village were to be believed, the sound could be interpreted as the voice of an angry God, protesting that mankind had grown indifferent to His presence.

"Perhaps I should do something. After all, what I was waiting for has finally happened."

She sat for a few minutes, paying close attention to everything going on around her; the clouds had continued to gather above the village, but she heard no other sounds. As a good ex-Catholic, she put no store by traditions and superstitions, especially those of Viscos, which had their roots in the ancient Celtic civilization that once existed in the place.

"A thunderclap is an entirely natural phenomenon. If God wanted to talk to man, he wouldn't use such roundabout methods."

She had just thought this when she again heard a peal of thunder accompanied by a flash of lightning -- a lot closer this time. Berta got to her feet, picked up her chair and went into her house before the rain started; but this time she felt her heart contract with an indefinable fear.

"What should I do?"

Again she wished that the stranger would simply leave at once; she was too old to help herself or her village, far less assist Almighty God, who, if He needed any help, would surely have chosen someone younger. This was all just some insane dream; her husband clearly had nothing better to do than to invent ways of helping her pass the time.

But of one thing she was sure, she had seen the Devil.

In the flesh and dressed as a pilgrim.





Continues...

Excerpted from The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho Copyright © 2007 by Paulo Coelho. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 49 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 49 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    “The Devil and Miss Prym” by Paulo Coelho one of the

    “The Devil and Miss Prym” by Paulo Coelho one of the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.” Therefore, it was added to my own reading list. I’ve read “The Alchemist” by Coelho, and while I enjoyed it, I thought it got repetitive and I wasn’t thrilled with the book. I was, however, thrilled with “The Devil and Miss Prym.”

    “The Devil and Miss Prym” is a book about a tormented man, being guided by the devil, who brings temptation in the form of wealth for murder in order to determine if people are inherently good or evil. The man suffers from a horrific past and believes that if he completes his social experiment, he will be able to truly determine if humans are good or evil beings. The man chooses the tiny city of Viscos, and opens up to Chantal, a barmaid with a promiscuous reputation and a dream about a more exciting future, about his plan to determine if people will murder for wealth and gold.

    “The Devil and Miss Prym” is a great read that I highly recommend! The book brings up some good moral questions and was a quick read.

    Think about this: Would you commit murder in exchange for more money than you could ever spend?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2011

    Impressive, mind blowing! A must read!

    The Devil and Miss Prym is written international best selling Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. Paulo Coelho is also author of the world known book, the Alchemist. This book is very analytic and philosophical. Symbolism is a major component. This novel examines the question, "are people bad?" This book develops deeply around the themes of fear, temptation, and good and evil. Set in a small town of the name Visco full of greed and selfishness, a young and desperate woman searching for a meaning is tempted by a man living in pain claiming to have the devil within him. She must take her ordinary life and choose between good and evil, listening to nature and also realizing she is responsible for her actions. Personally I believe that this book is amazing. It explores humans and their capacity to judge. Is there really and evil or is it just miss judgment? What makes a person capable of falling into temptation? What causes a person to be so ambitious and do actions that are not well accepted? Paulo Coelho takes all these questions and in the most simple manner clearly states his interpretations. The book leaves you stunned and like my friend would say, "it blows your mind!!!" This book focuses on a young woman by the name of Chantal Prym. She lives in a small town this is very basic ordinarily, all in all boring. She wants to leave this life and get out of the town to lead a life of excitement. Old Berta is the widow of the town who on her porch daily talks to her dead husband. Every day she awaits the arrival of the Devil as her husband had predicted. A stranger show up to the town intending to stay a week, and is first met by Old Berta. He encounters Miss Prym and listen her how that he as 11 golden bars hidden in the woods. The gold could belong to the mellow mediocre town under one condition that the stranger sets. Chantal discovers what she and her town are cable of in order to get the ticket that could get them out of their misery. Miss Prym discovers the good and evil that is in her everyday life. She must make a decision while the stranger considers what he calls the evil humanity and. This book will keep you hooked form start to end. What is that condition and what does it represent? To what extreme does the town go to? What happens to Old Berta and who's this stranger? What is his painful past about? What has caused him to be the man he has turned into? And most importantly what path does Miss Prym choose? All these questions can be answered through the deep reading of The Devil and Miss Prym.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    Great.

    Reading books by Paulo coelho always leave me thinking about life. I really enjoyed this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2012

    Great book

    I love this author

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2012

    Job well done

    An excelent read that plays well into how the human physc is conditioned. Poignant and fun.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2012

    A Great Summer Read.

    The Devil and Miss Prym is an excellent novel. I read it for my class, but I most certainly want to buy the other books in the series and read them over the summer. The immense symbolism and allegorical meanings are exceptional. I continuously read ahead for class because I was so interested to see what would happen next! I definitely believe that this book deserves five stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2012

    More of a thriller

    A little more thrilling than his other novels, this one is a little darker but still shares the same essence of his writings.

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  • Posted August 14, 2011

    Well written

    Explores the deepest foundations of the human spirit.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2008

    My first Coelho book

    This was an easy book to read. The story of a man haunted by ghosts from his past is looking for proof that people are more evil than good. He has brought with him eleven bars of gold. He traps a young girl into his scheme to see if this small poor village can be made to murder one of it's members to obtain the gold which it needs. The girl, Chantal Prym, needs the gold to leave the village. She goes through a lot of soul searching in order to get the village to consider the bargain. The internal fight that the stranger and the young woman go through is interesting. However, I failed to understand the end of the bargain. It made no sense to me. I hope my book discussion group can enlighten me!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2006

    A fantastic read

    Paulo Coelho has done it again. One of the good things I like about Coelho is that he keeps his stories simple, but make all of them captivating. The Devil and Miss Prym is no exception. I actually enjoyed reading this more than the Alchemist, which was his most popular book. This book teaches the true value of changing for one's sake. The value of starting over. The value of living a new life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2006

    Read in a day, loved for a lifetime...

    Like all of Paulo Coelho's book there is a message that transcends ethnic race and really cuts to the core of humanity. Many fault him for his simplistic writing, but in a world saturated with lengthy words that serve as a placebo to peoples ears and hearts, simplicity is what we need. It reminds me of a time before the written word, where oral traditions were prevalent. It also reminds me of parables that I loved growing up as a child.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    AN ACCOMPLISHED TALE

    The struggle between good and evil is a topic that has occupied the minds of men throughout the ages. Poems, stories, and novels have been written with this contest as its theme, yet few I wager have been penned as compellingly as today's tale by Paulo Coelho. This author who has won a number of prestigious awards, confines his narrative to a one week period and follows what he has been quoted as believing - that one man's life is every man's. A stranger arrives in the secluded mountain village of Viscos. This is the place that Chantal Prym would give anything to escape, and she is one of the first to speak with the newcomer. He is carrying 11 gold bars and a notebook. He explains that he is seeking help in answering an important question - are people basically good or are they evil? It is the stranger's belief that under certain circumstances every human being would, indeed, do something evil. Were Chantal to prove this to be true she could escape the confines of Viscos and begin a new life. However, committing such an act would be against all she believes to be right and true. What will her choice be and how does this challenge affect the other villagers? Tony nominee and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Linda Emond gives a breathtaking voice performance as Coelho's thought provoking story is revealed. Few who hear it will soon forget it.

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