Friday, August 14, 2009

The Winner Stands Alone

I waited for Paulo Coelho's latest book just as how I waited for all the other books he had written. Breathless and full of anticipation longing to embark on a journey where only the master story teller can create.

I adore Paulo but I have to say The Winner Stands Alone disappointed me. This latest novel of his is set during the Cannes Film Festival and it follows the lives of the "Superclass" and those aspiring to penetrate it. Budding directors, actresses, models, Paulo narrates their ambition, their despair and the lengths they go to achieve their desires.

A dark cloud hovers above all these wannabes in the form of Igor, a spurned husband from the Superclass who has stalked his ex-wife, Ewa to Cannes where she is accompanying her current husband, Hamid, an Arab designer who is also a member of the Superclass. Igor is on a mission to destroy "worlds" to gain the attention of Ewa and as a testament to how much he loves her. Standard modus operandi of your average Psychopath.

However there is nothing average about Igor and the methods in which he employs to destroy "worlds" is indeed morbidly fascinating.

If this story was spun by someone other than Paulo, without a doubt, I would have enjoyed it as how I would have devoured any other novel about murder; with pure macabreish lust.

But it was Paulo and because it was Paulo, my expectations were totally at another level.

When I flip the pages of a Coelho novel, there is almost always an instant connection with the protagonist. Male or female, I relate to their feelings, their desires and their quest. Through that, as I read their story, slowly it becomes my story. And when the final word is read, I close the book with hope that I am not alone with my feelings and emotions about life. There is a higher ideal that I strive for and gives my life a sense of purpose.

I could not find that connection with Igor or Ewa or Gabriela or Jasmine. I was merely a voyeur into their lives, intruding a world I didn't belong in nor desired to be part of. Greed and shallowness are the central theme of this book and it has no place in my life.

I was completely disconnected from it and that is where the disappointment lies. But Paulo Coelho is indeed a master storyteller because he vividly brought the life of the Superclass to the ordinary masses. It is a world where only a few are privileged to be part of while the rest of us minions are their slaves, glued to the silver screen to worship their acting and hounds of the fashion they create.

The parable I received from this book was the fact that the genius of Paulo Coelho doesn't lie in the enjoyment his readers get from his books. It's the fact that he can bring a life so far away from yours and make it real enough for you to understand eventhough you may not relate to everything in that life.

I guess that's why this is indeed a remarkable book eventhough I didn't enjoy reading it the way I read other Coelho books.

The Winner Stands Alone. So does the Reader but with better understanding of the world of greed, power & superficiality.

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