Is this straddling of the line between memoir and fiction successful? Regardless of genre, page after page of flower-power musing, such as 'The Supreme Gift, called Love, will make you an instrument of My words, the words I’ve not spoken but which you understand. The silence will teach you. … The silence may be translated into words, because this will be your destiny, but when this happens, seek no explanations, and urge others to respect the Mystery,' may leave some readers delighted but others dejected. And even for readers who rejoice in mystical, philosophical reflection, these spiritual ramblings may not be a convincing substitute for strong plot and thematic lines, compelling characters and unique insights into the world described.
In his latest novel, Hippie, Coelho follows the story of his younger self and those he met in his travels during the early ’70s. Beginning on the Death Train destined for Bolivia, to the Magic Bus from Europe to Kathmandu, Coelho transports his readers to a time when mass amounts of people could travel through Europe on five dollars a day and find pleasant company wherever they went ... to the rest of the world, hippies seemed to be screaming who they were and what they stood for. In this novel, Paulo Coelho presents a nuanced view of the hippies and gently explores their lifestyle and values by imparting his personal experience upon the reader.
The novel reads rather like a series of impressions clustered around a trip (no pun intended) through Europe and toward Kathmandu. While the narrative is written in the third person, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to identify some aspects of a character named 'Paulo' with the author. This character has linked up with Karla in Amsterdam in September 1970. They meet, appropriately enough, in Dam Square, perhaps the hippie center of the cosmos ... Meeting Paulo complicates both of their lives, however, for she would like him to be her travel companion on a bus trip from Amsterdam to Kathmandu, through Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and beyond ... A nostalgic immersion in the mind-blowing 1960s.