Confessions of A Pilgrim by Juan Arias

Confessions of A Pilgrim by Juan Arias is the latest book I have read and this biography cum interview has made me understand Paulo Coelho much better than I ever did before.

Paulo Coelho is one of those three writers whom I really admire for their curious combination of simplicity and honesty blended with fertile creativity. If you have been following my reviews, you can easily understand that the other two writers are Rabindranath Tagore and R.K. Narayan.

I have always been interested in knowing the life stories of these stalwarts, as their works have an indelible imprint of autobiography, which makes their novels and stories much more interesting!

Confessions of a Pilgrim gave me a rare opportunity to know more about Paulo Coelho, his life, his ideologies, his thoughts.

confessions-of-a-pilgrim-paulo-coelho While reading Valkyries, I was impressed by Paulo’s boldness in baring some of the best kept secrets of his life for open scrutiny by general public.

However, as I began reading the present book, I realized that Valkyries was nothing but a regurgitation of what Coelho has already divulged many years ago. His life is, in fact an open book, where even the red entries seem to acquire a strange purity.

To begin with, Confessions of a Pilgrim is a longish interview held by Juan Arias in Paulo’s beach house in Rio de Janeiro. The book was published in 1999, while the actual interview had occurred in July 1998, when Paulo’s ‘Veronica Decides to Die’ was about to be released. And, I think as is inevitable for any writer, Coelho is totally in the elements of Veronica here. His feminine side is better expressed and he has recollected his horrendous experiences at Mental Asylum quite vividly.

Yes, you read it right, Paulo, one of the wittiest writers around, did spend some time in a mental hospital where he was admitted thrice, and that too at the behest of his own parents. You would be shocked to know that the only reason for this extreme step was Paulo’s slight rebellious attitude. His lawyer father could not digest his son’s literary aspirations, and in a futile attempt to nip the budding novelist, got him admitted in a mad house!

I have never been a sympathizer of the Hippies movement or their so called liberal love-peace policy. But, as I read Paulo recollecting his tragic past, I found the society of yesteryear quite incomprehensible. Such tight norms and conventions to curb the basic human expression could only make the youth rebel, and that’s exactly what happened in seventies. And as I read on despite disagreeing with the means employed by young Paulo to avenge himself, I could not help but sympathize with him, and my respect for him increased many fold.

Juan Arias has conducted the interview quite deftly, making it look more like a flowing conversation between two long lost friends, rather than interjecting with irrelevant questions. Though, for better comprehension, the book is divided into eleven chapters, presenting Paulo’s views about magic, drugs, mental hospital and his private life.

Only in the last chapter, this convention was broken, as here three young readers become a part of the group and the interview takes on the form of an impromptu debate. It was a good tactic to break the monotony of conversations, but to my Coelho smitten mind, these metaphysical discussions appeared more as an aberration!

But, nevertheless, the book is a novel experience. Juan Arias brings into prominence the writer’s murky past, delving into Paulo’s struggles to cope with parental dominance, fatal appeal of drugs and the bewitching yet dangerous charm of Black Magic/satanic worship.

When I had read Brida, I was slightly disappointed, as I expected some magic to come out of it. However, after reading Confessions of a Pilgrim, I have realized that the entire life is magic, else how could a so called mentally deranged, rebel hippie write the most inspiring books of present times!

As is usual with Paulo’s books, the present conversations are also pregnant with witty one liners that strike you as your own thoughts, only more lucid and better expressed. His books are an amalgamation of his own bitter experiences and the possible spiritual solutions he looked for and thus represent the quest of each one of us in a very honest way, and Confessions of a Pilgrim is no exception.

Even if, he had been exaggerating his feminine side to get the readers connect with Veronica, as the book was about to be released at that time, and I have very high regards for the convincing promotional abilities of the versatile author, I have no qualms in accepting this book as a very honest portrayal of Paulo’s thought mechanism.

All in all, do read Confessions of a Pilgrim if you love to look beyond a writer’s fiction, want to discover the source of his inspiration and wish to explore the roots of his creations. Certainly a worthy read!

Title : Confessions of A Pilgrim
Written by : Juan Arias
Published by : Harper Collins
Edition : Paperback 2007
No. of Pages : 226
Price : Rs. 250

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