Brazilian Coelho (renowned for The Alchemist, 1993) has sold over 35 million copies worldwide and been translated into 54 languages. His latest may end up in the same enviable boat.
Each Coelho offering is slightly different in form but similar in voice—a voice that can be uplifting or chock-a-block with placebos of the religio-saccharine. The author’s best is The Fifth Mountain (1998), about the prophet Elijah’s battle for monotheism and his rise to heaven—still alive—in a chariot of fire. This time out, Coelho compiles parables and meditations first published over a three-year period in a column called “Maktub” in Folha de São Paulo and other newspapers in Brazil and elsewhere. The compilation is framed by a brief parable—or, if compared to Tolstoy’s steel-etched parables, by a bit of fluff. A strange woman tells a boy from a fishing village, “Just off the beach to the west of the village lies an island, and on it is a vast temple with many bells.” The boy spends many fruitless seasons sifting on the beach and becomes the butt of jokes from his mates as he waits to hear the bells. Only when the beauty of the seagulls’ cries, the roar of the sea, and the wind blowing through the palm trees become one to him does he at last hear them. The woman returns and hands him a blue notebook full of blank pages and tells him that, as a Warrior of the Light, one who understands the miracle of life and yet still has a child’s eyes, he must write down the path that led to his being a Warrior. Sample: “Sometimes Evil pursues a Warrior of the Light, and when it does, he calmly invites it into his tent . . . . When he has heard everything, he gets up and leaves. Evil feels so weary and empty after all this talk that it does not have the strength to follow him”).