“At this moment, many people have stopped living. They do not become angry, nor cry out; they merely wait for time to pass. They did not accept the challenges of life, so life no longer challenges them.”
Although Brazilian author Paulo Coelho intrigued me with this breakout novel, The Alchemist, which in many ways is a modern-day The Little Prince, as I began to read more of Coelho’s works I quickly discovered that his formulaic, sometimes trite plotlines had begun to grow tiresome. His very left-leaning, staunch Catholic view of the world surfaced in ways that made his novels read more like platforms for personal rhetoric (and not unlike Trump’s use of Twitter) than creative fiction.
However, that’s not to say that Coelho can’t pen some snappy sentences from time to time. In fact, I think that’s his greatest gift as a writer; he is to memorably, thought-provoking short bursts of prose what Mad Men are to sound bites on Madison Avenue.
In any event, The Fifth Mountain was the fifth – and final – Coelho novel I read and will most likely ever read, but it did have the one passage quoted above that I felt, and still feel, is relevant to people’s lives today. While it’s true that we all face challenges in life, not all of us step up to confront them. Or, more to the point, we don’t challenge ourselves to become better human beings, to soar higher, faster, stronger. We merely let the sands of time wash over us in a desert of unfeeling numbness, head buried firmly underground, and waiting for this shitshow called life to be over.
Perhaps that sounds harsh, but I think Coelho would agree, and is part of the reason he’s been so successful. Like him or not, he’s taken life by the horns and run with the bulls all the way to the bank, selling more than 350 million books worldwide in more than 80 languages. Not bad for a law school dropout and self-described “hippie” who spent his early adult years traveling and not doing much of anything when it came to work.