Thursday, April 30, 2009

Paulo Coelho

Thursday, April 30, 2009

This is a disturbing book.

Paulo Coelho's The Winner Stands Alone is a chilling trip through the mind of a psychopathic serial killer.

All the action takes place in 24 hours. Everything occurs during the Cannes Film Festival, an event which embodies the empty values of a nasty world.

There is almost no way to tell you what this book is like. One character says, "Who changes the world? The Superclass. Those who do. Those who alter the behavior, hearts, and minds of the largest possible number of people."

In his introduction, Coelho talks about someone's estimate that 6,000 people wield all the power in the world. He says he wants "to take a snapshot" of his own times.

By and large, according to this book, powerful people use their power to do terrible things. The systems they create enslave and destroy others. A director tells one starlet who has just received what she sees as the chance of a lifetime that she counts for nothing. The director says, "I remember, when I was a boy, seeing those great Hollywood mansions and thinking that all actors must earn a fortune.

"Well, it is a lie. There are maybe ten or perhaps twenty stars world-wide who can honestly say that they do earn a fortune, the rest live on appearances: in a house rented by the studio, wearing clothes and jewelry lent by couturiers and jewelers, driving cars on short-term loan from companies who want their name to be associated with the high life. The studio pays for all the glamour, and the actors earn very little. This isn't the case for our friend here [the major star], of course, but it will be with you."

Whether or not what the director says is true, the young woman knows the system will own her.

And into this, Coelho introduces a serial killer.

I found this book disturbing to read. It was hard and cold. But finally, it comes around to Paulo Coelho's point of view, expressed in the words of Albert Schweitzer, "...the sou
l suffers, suffers greatly, when we force it to live superficially. The soul loves all things beautiful and deep."

This book is not a treatise. It is a strong (and sometimes too loosely written) novel. It has the one thing most lesser novels lack--an overarching world view.

The book's title is ironic. The Winner Stands Alone has a dark view of the world and what the people of the world value. Very few people escape the trap, but a few do.

I struggled with how to express my own mixed feelings about this book. I might have wished the book to have fifty or one hundred pages fewer. The society the book portrays is so shallow. Some scenes portrayed actions so inane I found them almost impossible to read.

The superficial world of Cannes where people value useless things--fame, power and wealth for their own sakes--, leads to things like the African diamond mines with all their dying workers. And the diamond mines lead to slogans like, "Diamonds are forever" to lead us to keep on buying blood diamonds. And all that is the seedbed for the kind of rationalizations which make it possible for one man to kill at least six people in a single day.

This is a novel, not a mystery story. Maybe it is even modern muckraking of a sort. If you are into that kind of thing, I suggest you read The Winner Stands Alone.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Can't go into the mind of serial killers anymore. Sticks with me too long.

Joe Barone said...

I understand that. I can read books like this one, but only spaced out with other kinds of books in between.