Thursday, 19 March 2009

'Writers are lampposts, critics are dogs': Paulo Coelho Opiating the People

Yeah, well I'd rather be a dog than a lamppost, you dirty old hippy.

You can barely move in Hungary for people reading Paulo Coelho's, er, 'books'. It seems that the fall of communism facilitated not only the eastward surge of capitalism but a concurrent (and, if you ask me, related) influx of pseudo-spiritual bullshit.

It also fits the tendency of mainland Europeans to be far more susceptible to earnestness than the snarky British. It's almost disappointing to be out here knowing that you will never, ever be able to see the point of Bono, Depeche Mode, or the Smashing Pumpkins in the way that a Frenchman, an Italian, or a Hungarian can...

4 comments:

Jon said...

An old flatmate of mine pointed out that no good comes of people who say that Coelho's _Alchemist_ is their favourite book. Since then I've used peoples's reaction to that book as an 'acid test' for potential friends - it never fails.

Joe said...

I have met nice people (all Europeans, as per my remark) who like it. I'd be immediately suspicious of a British person who told me that they had enjoyed it, though. That's not to say that the British are better, or smarter, than Europeans (obviously) but that a complete absence of scepticism towards guru-based improvement is very rarely an indicator of a Briton you'd want to spend time with. For a while I had this enemy at parties: he was about thirty years older than me with bleached orange skin, and he used to corner you at the climax of the evening to yadder on about meditation and yoga. Fair enough, we could all do with being a bit more calm at times. This guy, however, generally used his 'transcendental' beliefs as a way of smarming up to drunk girls who were much, much younger than him. I am willing to bet substantial amounts of cash on him owning a copy of The Alchemist.

Taz said...

I have a policy of not reading blurbs on books before reading the actual book - these days they tend to give far too much information. Of course the down side to this, is that I generally am reduced to judging books by (a) front covers and (b) barely remembered impressions based on extraneous data gathered during my life. Anyway. I had somehow failed to find out anything about Coelho, so picked up (and unfortunately purchased) one of his books in a charity shop - not the Alchemist, Um, maybe The Pilgrim?

Anyway, this is just a long preamble to me saying: Sweet Jesus that is a terrible book, the premise is dull, the writing is flat, and WHY WOULD ANYONE ENJOY THIS? Seriously. Please explain to me why it's okay for Europeans to like?

jonwhosstillhere said...

Liking it is one thing, but for someone to tell you it's their favourite book is somewhat scary...