Coelho, Paulo

Review: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass” by Lewis Carroll

“Only mustard isn’t a bird,” Alice remarked.

“Right, as usual,” said the Duchess: “what a clear way you have of putting things!”

“It’s a mineral, I think,” said Alice.

“Of course it is,” said the Duchess, who seemed ready to agree to everything that Alice said: “there’s a large mustard-mine near here. And the moral of that is – ‘The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.'” – p. 81

Alice follows a white rabbit down the rabbit hole one day and finds herself in a land where the animals speak, inanimate objects have come alive and where every living thing do not seem to possess any logic and speak in round-a-bout ways. Lewis Carroll creates a vivid and memorable cast and a series of adventures in the first and more well known novel of the Wonderland.

Alice is portrayed as a very precocious seven year-old, and who is the only one who is seemingly behaving in  logical fashion. As she travels deeper into the Wonderland she meets the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, the Cheshire cat, a long-winded caterpillar who smokes a hookah and have a penchant of poetry, the Red Queen’s ugly sister and the pig-baby and of course, the Red Queen and King themselves. Speaking in nonsense speech that goes around in circles, it strike me that it very much resembles the speeches of politicians and the bureaucracy.

Similar themes continues in the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass:

“Were you ever punished?”

“Only for faults,” said Alice.

“And you were all the better for it, I know!” the Queen said triumphantly.

“Yes, but then I had done the things I was punished for,” said Alice: “that makes all the difference.”

“But if you hadn’t done them,” the Queen said, “that would have been better still…” – p. 176.

Does this dialogue and theory of punishment sound familiar?

Looking-Glass pales somewhat besides Wonderland. This time, Alice falls through a looking glass and into the world within it. She must make her way across a chessboard to reach the third square. Tweedledee and Tweedledum features in this novel  along with Humpty Dumpty, the red and white Queens and the re-emergence of the Mad Hatter. It is somewhat a more somber journey through the land of the Looking-Glass and it does not recreate the same air of frivolity and riddiculousness that was in Wonderland. The tone here is noticeably darker. Reading between the lines, parallels can be drawn between the gibberish that spills from the Wonderland characters and figures within our own world.

This was a re-read of Wonderland, having read it in high school and an abridged version as a child. It was, however, my first read of Looking-Glass and, I’m a little ashamed but also pleased to say, that I was inspired to read this due to the T.V. show Lost.

Review: “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.

And so begins this enchanting and quiet tale of a young sheppard named Santiago, who throws himself out onto the world to fulfil his Personal Legend. Everybody has their own Personal Legend and it is the sheer simplicity of Coehlo’s philosophy that makes this idea so accessible and inspirational. Your Personal Legend stems is clear and accessible to you when you are child, where there are no doubts or worries of the world. Can you remember what you wanted to be when you were a child? Do you remember how you could not see why your goal cannot be unachievable? But as you grew up – that one goal that your heart desired – suddenly become so unreachable that you become afraid to try.

The Alchemist follows Santiago, who gives up all his limited possessions, to realise a recurring dream. Always dreaming to see far and distant land, Santiago leaves Spain and searches for the pyramids where he is told there is treasure. To get there, he first must pass through unknown land and cross an endless desert meeting strange characters along the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read and the starkness and simplicity of Coehlo’s writing. Without overdosing on adjectives or character descriptions I got a great sense of who these characters were and I imagined their physical appearances in my head. I’m not a big reader (if at all) in spirituality, self-help or religious books but Coehlo manages to blend all three into this extremely quiet piece. The brilliance here is that it is done in an unassuming way and there is no preaching whatsoever. If this doesn’t sound enticing to you, this book is worth reading for Coehlo’s lovely settings in Spain, the middle East and the great deserts of Egypt.

So – continue to dream because there is a place within the world that awaits you.