Guided by his mysterious companion Petrus, he takes the road to Santiago, going throush a series of trials and tests along the way – even coming face to face with someone who may just be the devil himself. Why is the road to the simple life so hard? Will Paulo be strong enough to complete the journey towards humility, belief–and faith?
Title: The Pilgrimage
Author: Paulo Coelho
“… I guess it’s true that people always arrive at the right moment at the place where someone awaits them.”
I know it’s pretty bad form to write the last sentence of a book in a review but I’m sure you’ll agree that it had to be done. This sentence sums up what this book is about – insight and rediscovery.
Paulo Coelho recounts his journey on the Road to Santiago de Compostella (one of the three famous Christian pilgrimage routes) and all the mystical and emotional trials he faces along the way.
Maybe it’s the common theme of finding meaning in the path you’re on that makes The Pilgrimage so easy to relate to. Personally, I connected to Coelho’s journey on a much deeper, spiritual level. His thoughts and reflections go further than ‘finding yourself’ or ‘the religious journey’. Even though the narrative is based on a Christian pilgrimage, this is about the most elemental aspects of human nature and beliefs.
Coelho is at ease with the spiritual realms and his journey is rich with allegory. It is the balance of mysticism, magical realism and folklore that puts The Pilgrimage a step above the rest.
There are a number of exercises discussed throughout Coelho’s journey on the Road to Santiago de Compostella. I have to admit I did try my hand at a few of these but sometimes felt a little silly doing them – clearly I wasn’t doing them properly. One exercise that did leave an impression was the ‘Speed Exercise’, which entails walking at half the speed you’d normally walk at for 20 minutes and to pay attention to your surroundings.
After reading this passage I decided to try it on my walk home from the bus stop that evening. I turned off my music (which I never normally do) and walked at half the pace I normally would. I’ve taken this route for years and I will openly admit that – for the first time – I really saw the road I was taking. I even stopped on a corner to watch the twinkling light of a street lamp through the leaves of a tree. I made the same journey the next day, but in my rush to get home I forgot to do the exercise again. I got to the end of the road, turned around, and I can honestly say I couldn’t remember anything I had literally just walked past. Do we really go through life ‘seeing’ so little?!
The Pilgrimage isn’t a self-help book, it doesn’t have the answer to life hidden within the pages. It simply retells a man’s enchanting journey on a road and the questions it brings up about his decisions, his motives, his dreams – and in doing so makes you question your own.
I will leave you with my absolute favourite passage of the book. It’s about two pages long so I’ve only quoted the first bit – read pp.50-51 for the rest of the passage.
“We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body. Many times in our lives we see our dreams shattered and our desires frustrated, but we have to continue dreaming. If we don’t our soul dies …”