Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Aleph - Review

Number of pages, Edition: 
300 pages, HARPER

Author: Paulo Coelho

Narrator: The author himself.

Main characters
  • The principal character: the author himself.
  • The author’s wife: she first accompanies him in his journey but decides to let him continue alone so that he learns more.
  • Monica: his assistant.
  • Samil: the Tunisian guide, he helps the author know more about the reincarnation in Islam.
  • Hilal: a Turkish girl who plays the violin. She insists on accompanying the author in his trip and falls in love with him.
  • Yao: The translator. When his wife died, he started losing faith in religion and changing his vision of life and death.


Like many of Paulo Coehlo’s novels (The alchemist, The Zahir…), the story is about a journey whose purpose is the quest of truth and peace and which is inspired from his own vision of life.

The author is a successful person; he has a soul mate: his wife, he is a famous writer and people all around the world read his books, he doesn’t have health problems and he is rich. However, he still feels spiritually unstable and he believes that many things have to be discovered somewhere else. So, he decides to go on a long journey to find the peace he is looking for, by accepting the invitations of all publishers to hold signing meetings in their countries.

In every visited country, he tries to come in contact with people and learn from their own stories and lives. During the last station of his journey, Siberia, he meets a Turkish girl called “Hilal” who insists on accompanying him because she was spiritually lost and she was sure he is the one who can help her finding peace and happiness.

Once in the train carriage, he and the girl get in the Aleph, a time tunnel where the past, the present and the future become the same, he discovers then that he knew her in the past and that he couldn’t help her when she needed him. Since this, he tries to help her regaining her self-confidence and her love for life, and tries to make her forgive him for his past mistakes. He even starts desiring her as a woman, but he can control his desire because he is sure he’s already found his soul mate.

This journey was very useful to the author because it gave him the possibility to return back to his past and ask forgiveness from Hilal, and it was useful to Hilal too, because she became more tolerant with others and with herself and she decides to continue her life with optimism.

Principal ideas
  • The Aleph is a place when the past, the present and the future become one thing.
  • For the author, the present contains all other times: In our memories, we can see some situations in the past as if we still live them, and in our dreams, we can see future events.
  • If we want to know ourselves, we have to know others first.
  • Life is like a train with many compartments, people live in those compartments without knowing each other, but they can meet between compartments or by moving from one compartment to another.
  • A life without a cause is a life without effect.
  • Travel is primordial to break the routine, to meet other people and to discover new things in this world.
  • To continue our life, we should be able to forgive our mistakes and our sins, love ourselves and others, learn from our past and focus on our present.

Writing style
  • The novel is translated from Portuguese to English, that's why its style is very simple and easy.
  • The author uses narration and description but he focuses more on dialogue.

Points of agreement
  • The past and the future exist in the present through memories and dreams.
  • Death is not the end of life; it’s only another compartment of the life train. People are immortal, only their bodies die, but their souls move to another world and wait for the resurrection day. Then, they live eternally in Heaven or Hell based to God judgment.
  • Our memories can influence our present negatively, which makes us prisoners of our past and prevents us from evolving.
  • We should acquire the ability to forgive ourselves and others because it makes us free and light, and it helps us continue living happily.

Points of disagreement
  • We can’t learn everything from people.
Example: If we want to know more about a religion, we mustn’t ask people, we should get back to basics (for the Islam: the Holly Coran, for Christianism: the Bible), because people can distort religions by traditions and bad interpretations.
  • I don’t agree with the author in his vision of love, sex and loyalty, and this is a topic repeated frequently in his novels. 
    • If a married woman is desired by a man other than her husband, this makes this latter proud and happy! (The feeling of Igor in “The winner stands alone”). 
    • A man can sometimes be in relationship with another woman if he will finally return to his wife,  and the same thing for a woman. (in the Zahir, the hero doesn’t care when he finds her wife pregnant of another man).
I think the relationship between the man and the woman should be more serious. Love is a precious and pure feeling. So, each of us must respect his partner, be loyal to him at any circumstances and feel jealous if he belongs to another person, this is what protects any relationship.

  • As always, the author uses superstition in his book and bases the story on it (All what the Moroccan clairvoyant says happens).
  • The author repeats sometimes the same situations in many books (Swimming in the cold water in “Aleph” is similar to walking on the ice in “the Zahir”).
  • Some scenes are, in my opinion, off-topic (some sexual scenes between the hero and Hilal, the scene of drinking in the restaurant…).


I think the novel story is similar to other novels; it’s a journey where the hero is seeking his internal peace. Furthermore, I think the novel contains many interesting thoughts, but I don’t agree with many others. So I rate the book 3/5.


  1. Hello Amal
    Thanks a lot for the review
    I read Aleph and I enjoyed again the fertile imagination of the author and his way of transmitting messages via direct quotes and indirect symbols.
    It is true that the novel is long and is boring in some parts but generally Paulo Cohelo had mixed reality and fiction in a very symbolic way.
    As an example, in the beginning, I couldn’t understand her relationship with Hilal. I took the history as an adultery between him and this woman. But as I advance in the story I could understand that Hilal is its past mistakes. Hilal is a part of him who refuses to forgive its mistakes and failures, who insists on following him everywhere, who refuses to grow up and learn to forgive and it prevents him from living in peace. Aleph is his desire to rush away from its past to reconcile with his past, with all its mistakes committed in the name of false beliefs.
    I think that ,for Paulo Cohelo, Aleph is a sort of reconciliation with his past, with its beliefs that prevent him to enjoy it success and finding his kingdom and his peace.

  2. Hi Racha,

    Thank you very much for this comment, I genuinely liked the way you looked at the story and the meaning you gave to Hilal and the Aleph, and I totally agree with you, this vision of the story explains everything, the love story between Hilal and the author, the return to the past, the quest of peace....

    Thanks again for enriching this blog with your interesting thoughts :)

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