Tim’s Book Club 19 February 2010

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho is one of those writers that intellectuals can be a bit sneery about, because he writes these very wide-eyed books about spiritual adventures and everything is always a metaphor for some kind of spiritual discovery or philosophy. And he’s also quite religious in places. But I was recommended the book – by Jesse, actually – and I really enjoyed it.

It’s a very interesting read. It’s based on Coelho going on this journey where he wants to become part of some kind of spiritual brotherhood. The book starts with him failing his initiation test to get into this brotherhood, then in order to make up for this failure, he’s sent on a pilgrimage through Spain. He and his guide, who’s also in the brotherhood, have to walk hundreds of miles through the mountains, and all along the way there are these tests that he has to do. Each challenge takes up a chapter of the book. There’s one where he has to pretend that he’s being buried alive, so that he experiences what it’s like to face your death. Then there’s another where he has to pretend that everything is happening much more slowly than it is, in order that he loses the sense of time. By facing all these challenges, he’s trying to attain some kind of particular spiritual purity, wisdom and power

It’s not the sort of thing I’ve ever read before, but I loved it. It does make you think about the way you live your own life. And I felt that I actually learned a lot from it. Coelho will have achieved something at the end of each chapter, and learned things about himself that are really fundamental and important to him on his journey. It’s nice to be able to flick back through the pages and think about what did he did, what he said, and what the thought process was that he went through. And it is amazing how much you find yourself identifying with the character.

The book left me with a sense of wanting to try to apply some of those crazy adventures to my own life. We’re all slaves to the same obsessions and limitations and fears and dreams and so on. There are all these common threads that link pretty much every person on the planet and a lot of them are talked about in this book. That makes it feel quite universal. So, it’s really, really interesting and very inspiring. One of those books which makes you feel that you could potentially be a better person.


Click here to read the prologue of the book at Paulo Coelho’s website

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