Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Brida" by Paulo Coelho

Author: Paulo Coelho
Title: Brida
Pages: 224
Publisher: Harper

Fantasy as a genre is a titan in literature, all encompassing and with multiple manifestations. Fans have encountered sword & sorcery, epic fantasy, historical fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal thrillers and romances. I for one always classify novels into some degree of fantasy if even one detail strays away from the pattern of logic and reality. Paulo Coelho is known for writing books about life, the type of titles that hit hard topics and problems, we have to face every day. However his approach is always directed towards spirituality and among one of his techniques is the involvement of mysticism.

Paulo Coelho writes of alchemy, visions in dreams and ancient traditions and every tale he writes staggers the mind with truths about life and complicated themes taken directly from life and developed into brilliance. That is why I classify his work mostly as philosophical fantasy, because it makes you think, increase your sensitivity towards different nuances of life or simply broaden your horizons by a centimeter or two. Utilizing the veil of the unknown, paranormal, magical Coelho pierces the veil of the human mind and soul and always gets to the point what his characters think they want and they need; only to realize that later.

“Brida”, although I thought was a new title, is a reprint from 1990 and centers around Brida, a young Irish girl, who is determined to become a witch and since then experiments with different traditions to achieve her goal. I have always been interested about the etymology of names and seeing how everything in Coelho’s books means something, I searched the web for any meaning of the name Brida. As it turns out Brida is a long winded transformation from the Irish Brighid, a name borne by a popular Irish goddess of wisdom.

Written in third person point of view the novel shifts between four characters: Brida; her teacher in the tradition of the sun, mostly referred to as the Magus; her teacher in the tradition of the moon, Wicca and Brida’s lover, a clever physicist assistant named Lawrence. As every chapter brings a different point of view, the reader is left to put together a puzzle from the past and present relationships of the characters during Brida’s search for wisdom. Solving it brings an understanding of the two biggest themes involved, search for wisdom and search for love, which happen to be interconnected in the novel as well as in real life, since love is one of the most unexplainable forces that guides humanity.

“Brida” has a heavy accent on fantasy elements, mostly the magical traditions and their tools. The fact that Brida’s teacher is named after a neo-pagan religion with roots into ancient polytheistic rituals with affiliation towards nature, says it all. In the book we witness the power of the Dark Night; the Tarot cards, which relate visions; time travel to a past life and prayers to the spirits of forests and other places of nature. However the strength of the novel does not fall on the fantasy. “Brida” isn’t extraordinary, because the heroine could hop through time and hear voices in her head. These happenings are only a font, on which Brida gathers wisdom and finds her bridge between the real world and the one unseen, thus learning more about herself and soul after every page.

Another interesting point in the novel is the blend between the Pagan and Christianity. Paulo Coelho uses the mutual point of high spirituality, common in both religions to merge them into some kind of unity. The Magus teaches Brida to prey with her soul to the higher force above. Wicca uses Virgin Mary in her prayers as well and urges Brida to read the Bible in order to find what her own spiritual gift is.

Parallel to Brida’s spiritual growth, the reader notices another motif develop and here comes love again. I am not sure how Coelho thought it to work and interpreting authors is always a very subjective. Different people find a different truth for themselves. For me “Brida” teaches one thing about love and namely, it’s a force no one can control, understand or harness despite all the wisdom on Earth. In this world a lover can find his soul mate by a small dot of light hovering above their lovers left shoulder. This is the rule in order to find your true love. The Magus and Brida are destined to love each other, because they are parts of one bigger soul. However when Brida learns to see the dot over the Magus shoulder she knows Lawrence is the man of her life, despite the lack of dot. Even though Brida is the embodiment for the people searching for answers in the ether and Lawrence being the embodiment of the people searching for answers in matter and science, their bond breaks the rules of the world for love.

As a conclusion there is this one thing that I need to mention and that is how Coelho writes. “Brida” stands at 250 pages, at least the Bulgarian translated version, and pushes all the right buttons and meets all criteria for a perfect story. It’s simply enchanting how Coelho uses the simplest of words to relate his more philosophical take on the quest for love, wisdom, spirituality and whether the world we see is all there is to reality and life.


Anonymous said...


I'm a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He's the first best-selling
author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

Have a nice day!


daydream said...

Hey, thanks a lot for the link, but I already managed to get his works free through the internet as well. But really I wouldn't mind buying the books too. Beautiful hardcovers.

Bookfool said...

You know, I've never been interested in reading Coelho, but you've actually convinced me this one's worth reading. Thanks for that! Great review!

daydream said...

Well it was a really deep book and the ideas it conveys are simply overwhelming. The only difficulty might be his taste for writing prose, since it's very Spartan in nature, only necessary words in a sentence.

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