The New York Times (me=immense love for the NYTimes) ran an article ("Paulo Coelho: Writing in a Global Language," August 30, 2005) about Paulo Coelho today. I thought it was a rather interesting article. Mostly it discusses his status as a literary icon in world literature--except in the States. Now, I can't be counted as any expert or fan here, especially since I've only read The Alchemist (which is a superb book, by the by), but I do think he deserves a greater following in the States.
And for the record, I think I am going to look for The Zahir. It sounds interesting. Especially given his thoughts here:
"The Zahir," an Arab concept borrowed from a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, is described by Mr. Coelho as a thought or idea that gradually becomes obsessional. In the book, the narrator's "Zahir" is the missing Esther.
"There's a lot of me in it," Mr. Coelho said, albeit noting that he has now been married to his artist wife, Christina Oiticica, for 26 years. "But the character is more egotistical. I'm also egotistical, but not the way the character is. This guy is successful, he has everything, but his wife has left him. The most important value - love - is missing. What is wrong with this institution called 'marriage'? What is wrong with this institution called 'the pursuit of happiness'?"
Anyway, that's not the whole point here. The point is that I think he says some interesting things about literature and readers:
"No one is going to change the way I write," he said. "Borges said there are only four stories to tell: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power and the voyage. All of us writers rewrite these same stories ad infinitum."
"But the one thing I cannot stand," Mr. Coelho went on, "is criticism of the reader, that the reader is dumb. You can speak badly of me, of my books, but you cannot speak badly of the reader. It's like saying, 'Everyone is dumb; the only one who isn't is the critic.' That's not fair."
I'm not exactly sure what I think of his statements, particularly regarding his summary of Borges. I'm sure I can think of stories that break the mold, but I'm not sure I can think of great stories that break the mold. I know that in my heart of hearts, I agree that it's unfair to speak badly of the reader. But I'm exposed (in the virtual world) to so many readers that I can't help but think badly of. Hmm. I wonder if this constitutes a moral quandary for me. I'm sure TexMom will have comments here. ;)