Paulo Coelho draws on experiences from his own life.

He tells the story of Paulo, a skinny Brazilian, setting off on a journey in search of a deeper meaning for his life.

Along the way he travels on the ‘Death Train to Bolivia’, then on to Peru, Chile and Argentina.

In Amsterdam he meets Karla, a young woman iwho has been waiting to find the ideal companion to accompany her on the fabled hippie trail to Nepal. Together with their fellow travellers, they embark on a trip aboard the Magic Bus, heading across Europe and Central Asia to Kathmandu.

For everyone, the journey is transformative. For Paulo and Karla it is a life-defining love story that leads to choices that will set the course of the rest of their lives.

Our Review

Paulo Coelho’s fantastic new book Hippie is based on real events from his life and is a must-read for anyone interested in the author.

Prior to reading Hippie any knowledge of the movement was based on stereotypes from the TV or remarks of a derogatory nature. The typical stereotype of a Hippie from the TV is of a slightly dim-witted person who is usually heavily into drugs and promiscuous. This is not the image presented by Paulo Coelho and that can only be a good thing.

The book begins in September 1970 and charts a journey taken by a young Brazilian boy named Paulo on the ‘death train’ to Bolivia and then eventually on to Amsterdam.

Once in Amsterdam he meets a young woman named Karla who encourages her to travel with her on the ‘Magic Bus’ from Amsterdam to Nepal. Along the way they hear from fellow travellers each of whom are following for the hippie trail for their own reasons. They also explore their relationship, one that will change both of their lives forever.

“Two sites squared off for the title of the center of the world: Piccadilly Circus in London, and Dam Square, in Amsterdam. But not everyone knew this.”

At this time airplane tickets were expensive, so few could afford to travel in that manner so young people turned to alternative methods of travel.

Paulo Coelho addresses the stereotypes surrounding the Hippie movement very early on.

“These outdated media outlets could see only their outward appearance: they wore their hair long, dressed in bright-coloured clothing, never took a bath (which was a lie, but these young kids didn’t read the newspaper, and the older generation believed any news that served to degenerate those they considered ‘a danger to society and common decency.’

The Hippie’s disdain for traditional forms of media led to them using a publication called ‘The Invisible Post’ to discover the latest popular trails and a book on how to live for five dollars a day.

“No one knew exactly what the word ‘Hippie’ meant, and it didn’t much matter. Perhaps it meant ‘a large tribe without a leader’ or ‘delinquents who don’t steal’

One of the things Paulo Coelho emphasises in Hippie is how powerful women were at this time.

“Now, in September 1970, women ruled the world – or, more precisely, young hippie women ruled the world. Wherever they went, the men did so knowing these women weren’t about to be seduced by the latest trends – the women knew much more about the subject than the men did. And so the men decided to accept once and for all that they needed these women; they constantly wore an expression of yearning, as though begging, ‘please protect me, I’m alone and I can’t find anyone, I think the world’s forgotten me and love has forsaken me forever.’ The women had their pick of men and never gave a thought to marriage, only to having a good time enjoying wild, intense sex. When it came to important things, and even the most superficial and irrelevant, they had the last word.”

Karla is clearly one such woman, in fact all the women in Hippie have quite strong characters.

“Karla was seated in Dam Square, asking herself when the guy who ought to accompany her on this magical adventure might show up.”

She left her job in Rotterdam because she wanted to travel on the latest hippie trail through Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and part of India. She doesn’t want to do it alone though which is why she is sat in the square.

Also, she has been told by a psychic that she will find the man she will travel with in that square.

“After nearly a week of waiting, she was growing anxious. She’d approached a dozen young men from different countries who wanted nothing but to stay put, in that town square filled with nothing remarkable but a phallic monument, which at a minimum should have inspired virility and courage. But no, not a single one of them was inclined to travel to unknown lands.”

Meanwhile, while she is waiting in the square Paolo is on a train approaching the Dutch border but is preoccupied with memories of another more harrowing journey.

“Paulo knew that there, in Europe, the things he’d been through did not happen. Or, rather, they had happened but in the past. He always asked himself how those walking to the gas chambers in the concentration camps or lined up for death at a mass grave, watching the firing squad execute the front line, never had the slightest reaction, never tried to run, never attacked their executioners.

The answer was simple: their panic was so great that they were no longer present. The brain blocks out everything, there’s neither terror nor fear, just a strange submission to what’s about to occur.

Hippie is a very spiritual book that will appeal to readers even if they themselves are not that way inclined.

The overwhelming themes of the book are self-discovery and linked to that the importance of the ability to love.

“Because a life without love isn’t worth living. What is a life without love? It is a tree that bears no fruit. It’s sleeping without dreaming. At times, its even an inability to sleep. It’s living one day after another waiting for the sun to shine into a room that is completely shut up, painted black, where you know where the key is but have no desire to know where the door is and go out.”

As usual Paulo Coelho writes in a lyrical way that makes Hippie a pleasure to read, a very well-written and compelling book.

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