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The Devil and Miss Prym: A Novel of Temptation

The Devil and Miss Prym: A Novel of Temptation

4.1 49
by Paulo Coelho

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A stranger arrives at the remote village of Viscos, carrying with him a backpack containing a notebook and eleven gold bars. He comes searching for the answer to a question that torments him: Are human beings, in essence, good or evil? In welcoming the mysterious foreigner, the whole village becomes an accomplice to his sophisticated plot, which will forever mark


A stranger arrives at the remote village of Viscos, carrying with him a backpack containing a notebook and eleven gold bars. He comes searching for the answer to a question that torments him: Are human beings, in essence, good or evil? In welcoming the mysterious foreigner, the whole village becomes an accomplice to his sophisticated plot, which will forever mark their lives.

A novel of temptation by the internationally bestselling author Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym is a thought-provoking parable of a community devoured by greed, cowardice, and fear—as it struggles with the choice between good and evil.

Editorial Reviews

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.

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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.


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.

Meet the Author

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 over 175 million copies worldwide, and The Alchemist has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 360 weeks.

Paulo Coelho has been a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters since 2002, and in 2007, he was appointed United Nations Messenger of Peace. He is also the most followed author on social media.

Brief Biography

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Date of Birth:
August 24, 1947
Place of Birth:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Left law school in second year

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The Devil and Miss Prym 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
“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?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
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Reading books by Paulo coelho always leave me thinking about life. I really enjoyed this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this author
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excelent read that plays well into how the human physc is conditioned. Poignant and fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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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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Cliff Watson More than 1 year ago
Explores the deepest foundations of the human spirit.
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