My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hippie (2018) by Paulo Coelho is loosely based on his personal experiences in the 1960s and 1970s as a hippie and as an explorer seeking a greater, more esoteric knowledge.
In an interview, Paulo once said, “Coincidence is the language of the stars,” and that’s a great summary for his book filled with coincidences that guide the young hero on a pilgrimage of self-discovery and of love.
Beginning in September 1970, the “Magic Bus” unites a cast of characters from around the world to seek a higher spiritual exploration of travel and friendship. The journey begins in Amsterdam and travels to Istanbul in Turkey, among a few other places along the route headed to its final destination of Nepal.
The primary character of the fictional novel Hippie is our Brazilian hero named Paulo, who is based on the author Paulo Coelho. The other main character who gets a point-of-view of her own is Paulo’s companion named Karla, who is Dutch (see p 57). There’s also the Irish couple Rayan and Mirthe (see pgs 127-128), forty-seven-year-old Jacques and his twenty-year-old daughter Marie, who are French (see pgs 200-201), and the two bus drivers Michael, who is Scottish, and Rahul (see p 163).
A representation of the emerging “feminism” of the 1970s, Karla struggles with men in her life and the personal choices she needs to make to ultimately be happy one day. Her destination: a cave in Nepal to live alone to meditate, since the world she lives in doesn’t bring her satisfaction or love. A section about “men” best sums up Karla’s personality and attitude towards the opposite sex and on feminism:
“While women in the United States were burning their bras and demanding equality, Karla, who never used a bra despite the fact her breasts weren’t exactly small—was living in a place where such equality had been gained long before, without any noise, without all sorts of attention seeking, by simply following the ancestral logic that power belongs to women—it’s they who govern their husbands and children, their presidents and kings, who for their part seek to give the impression that they’re exceptional generals, heads of state, businessmen.
“Men. They thought they ruled the world but couldn’t so much as take a step without, that very same night, seeking the opinions of their partners, lovers, girlfriends, mothers” (p 60).
Paulo also has some realizations that can strike a meaningful chord with any reader when he explains that “the worst killing is that which kills the joy we get from life” (p 56) and, “As though everything truly had to be faced without fear, a mere fact of life,” writes Paulo, “we don’t choose the things that happen to us, but we can choose how we react to them” (p 49).
Hippie, ultimately, is a love story between Paulo and Karla who become companions on the Magic Bus. Paulo is the easy one to fall in love while Karla is the difficult one who finds love impossible. By happenstance the two hippies meet and share experiences that bring them closer to who they really are and how their future unfolds as if it could be written in no other way. But love, true love, is never an easy course to follow.
“Their unconfessed sentiments had yet to be revealed, but they would not remain unknown for long, Paulo and Karla were merely waiting for the right moment to make their feelings clear. That was the instant when many relationships that could have resulted in great love stories were lost—or because when two souls meet on the face of the earth, they already know where their journeys will lead them and this terrifies them, or because we are so focused on our own things that we don’t even allow two souls the time to get to know each other. We set off in search of ‘something better’ and lose the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Karla was allowing her soul to bare itself. At times, we are fooled by their words because our souls aren’t exactly very faithful and end up accepting situations that in reality don’t have anything to do with anything; they try to please the mind and ignore the thing into which Karla was plunging deeper and deeper: Understanding. The outer self, that which you believe yourself to be, is nothing more than a limiting place, a stranger to the true self. This is why people have such a hard time listening to what their souls are telling them; they try to control the soul so that it does exactly as they have already decided” (p 68).
Two other major characters who get points-of-view of their own are Jacques and his daughter Marie, who both are on the Magic Bus for very special and important reasons which unfold by the end of the book.
While in a flashback of Paris on May 3, 1968, Jacques witnesses violent riots, which could just as easily have been ripped from the headlines of 2018 & 2019 (see pgs 216-219):
“He tried walking toward the Sorbonne, but the streets were completely blocked, by pitched battles between forces ‘of order’ and what looked to be a bunch of anarchists from some horror film. Tires burned, rocks were being thrown at the police, Molotov cocktails flew every which way, public transportation had ground to a halt. More tear gas, more shouting, more sirens, more rocks being torn from the pavement, more kids being beaten” (p 216).
Maire, Jacques’s daughter, best expresses “hippie culture” when she trips on LSD while walking the streets of Istanbul with Karla (see pgs 257-269):
“At that moment, she basked in a world without questions or answers. Without doubts or convictions. She basked in a world that was one with her. She basked in a world without time, where past and future were merely the present, nothing more. At times, her spirit showed itself to be very old; at other times it seemed like a child, making the most of all that was new, looking at her fingers and noticing how they were separate and the way they moved. She watched the girl at her side, happy that she was now much calmer, her light had returned, she really was in love. The question she’d asked earlier made absolutely no sense, we always know when we’re in love” (pgs 267-268).
If the Paris riots are the trigger for Jacques, the LSD trip is the awakening for Marie, and the writer Paulo Coelho does an excellent job paralleling these two father-daughter narratives to provide a deeper and fuller shape to Paulo and Karla’s storyline describing these two individuals and their spiritual journeys which help to make them into stronger, wiser human beings.
“The ancients said that change is permanent and constant—because life passes quickly. If there was no change, there would be no universe… The true spiritual journey is stronger than the reasons that lead us into it. It slowly begins to take hold, bringing love, discipline, and dignity. The moment arrives when we look back, we remember what we were like at the beginning of our journey, and we laugh at ourselves… God’s love is stronger than the reasons that lead us to Him. Paulo believed this with every fiber of his soul. God’s power is with us at every moment, and courage is required to let it into our minds, our feelings, our breath—courage is required to change our minds when we realize that we are merely instruments of His will, and it is His will we ought to fulfill” (p 120).
Inside a well-told narrative of alternating points-of-view, the book helps to remind the readers that we must always use our intuition, let our inspirations guide us, because inspiration is a boat in a giant sea guiding us to our destiny.
Paulo Coelho is best known for his book The Alchemist (1988), but he has also published other fantastic novels, such as The Pilgrimage (1987), By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1994), Warrior of the Light (2002), Eleven Minutes (2003), Aleph (2011), Manuscript found in Accra (2012), Adultery (2014), and The Spy (2016).
The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s a member of the Hemingway Society, Club Med, and the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), The Mystic’s Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), Little Hometown, America: A Look Back (2020); and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; A Time to Forget in East Berlin; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
You can follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 400,000+ followers