Re­views of Hip­pie, Fash­ion Climb­ing, Sab­rina and Killing Commendatore.

Paulo Coelho’s ac­count of rid­ing the Magic Bus of­fers few in­sights, whether as a travel story or a mys­ti­cal jour­ney.

Metro Magazine NZ - - Contents - RE­VIEW — JOHN SIN­CLAIR

Hip­pie is best-sell­ing Brazil­ian au­thor Paulo Coelho’s con­tri­bu­tion to a small avalanche of books mark­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of 1968.

That mo­men­tous year, it will be re­mem­bered, fol­lowed on from 1967’s Sum­mer of Love and saw, among other events, the Prague Spring, ri­ots in Paris and Chicago, the mur­ders of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, mas­sacres at My Lai in Viet­nam and Tlatelolco Plaza in Mex­ico City, a gen­eral strike in France, Black Power salutes on the Olympic medal podium, Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech, “Hey Jude”, “Street Fight­ing Man” and Ja­nis Jo­plin’s “Piece of My Heart”.

In re­sponse, many young peo­ple, and some not so young, sought to flee the ap­par­ent death throes of Western mid­dle-class or­tho­doxy and ride the fa­mous Magic Bus, which, for a mere $70 a seat, would bump and grind the 9000 kilo­me­tres from Am­s­ter­dam to Kath­mandu with a cargo of spir­i­tual seek­ers on a jour­ney fu­elled by tantric plea­sure, hashish and the lure of au­then­tic spir­i­tu­al­ity and cheap psychedelics (which to some were the same thing). The young Coelho, al­ready a stu­dent of es­o­teric mys­ti­cism, was one of those who took the trip (the pun is in­evitable) and he has now as­sem­bled his notes into a “novel” (or “auto-fic­tion”, if we want to be more cur­rent) in which he fea­tures as a ma­jor char­ac­ter, though all other names have been changed.

Coelho has vir­tu­ally owned the spir­i­tual-quest genre since the 1980s with the best-sell­ing The Al­chemist, Aleph and his ac­count of the Camino de San­ti­ago, The Pil­grim­age. In a cyn­i­cal age it can be re­fresh­ing to read a nar­ra­tive which sets out to prove that “when you want some­thing, all the uni­verse con­spires in help­ing you to achieve it”, and it’s com­fort­ing to know that the world’s wis­dom tra­di­tions can be stripped of their in­hibit­ing doc­trines and savoured in small bites with no obli­ga­tion to buy. Even so, $70 seems a lit­tle too cheap.

As Hip­pie opens, Paulo is ar­riv­ing in Am­s­ter­dam, hav­ing fled a se­vere beat­ing by the Brazil para­mil­i­tary. Thank­fully the uni­verse has ar­ranged for him to meet Karla, a beau­ti­ful young Dutch woman wait­ing in Dam Square for the right man to be her trav­el­ling com­pan­ion and soul­mate on the Magic Bus. Coelho the El­der al­lows him­self some af­fec­tion­ate mock­ery of the young cou­ple (“Karla was al­low­ing her soul to bare it­self … Where will my heart lead if I’ve yet to wan­der so many un­known paths?”) and also of the hip­pie com­mu­nity with its love for all things in­no­cent, flo­ral and East­ern, but he re­mains at heart a true be­liever — “The two of them had come to­gether for some mys­te­ri­ous

ABOVE— As a young man,Paulo Coelho joined other spir­i­tual seek­ers on a drug-fu­elled trip.

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