0052 | The Devil & Miss Prym ~ Paulo Coelho

REVIEW
Now I liked this, I really did. Wasn’t expecting to because I’d hated Veronika Decides to Die. But this was different.

One thing I appreciated was that this edition, at least, had a little preface by the author detailing the premise for the novel. There I was, ready to begin, with some clue about what was coming and, much more importantly, why.

And the story unfolded rather well I thought. In fact, it deals with great moral issues which I think are very very relevant to our world today. The book tells of a moral conundrum inflicted on an insular village by a visiting stranger and then the impact this has on the behaviour and thought processes of the community. It’s an allegory of the human life in some ways and I like that kind of thing.

However, the book also raises a number of points about God and the Christian life which need to be raised, discussed and clarified so I was glad of that. I would have been overjoyed if Coelho had actually reached the third stage of this process but I supposed that I’ll have to remain satisfied that he actually reached stage two at all. Middlesex and Never Let Me Go never got past first base on this front.

In taking up the third stage baton from the author, I feel kind of privileged; honoured that Coelho would leave this role to me, the humble reader – maybe that was his intention.

So, on to clarification then.

There are a number of factual errors about the Bible and the Christian God which he makes showing perhaps an awareness of Christianity but not a well-versed experience of it. The case needs to be clearly stated because to allow these misrepresentations to continue would be to tolerate prejudice.

  • In the prologue he says the Bible fails to explain who “us” refers to in the quote from Genesis 3 that “the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil” Those who believe in a trinitarian God see no problem with this as it is obvious from the context of the early chapters of Genesis that this is the Godhead speaking. A little Hebrew and a bit of discourse analysis will show this to be the case.
  • “if we are good, God is just and will forgive me for all I have done” says someone at some point. There is an obvious (surely not intentional??) contradiction here though between someone being forgiven for being good. Surely if you are “good” you are not in need of any forgiveness? Jesus stated clearly that it is the sick who are in need of a physician and that he came to save the bad, not the “good”
  • “God sows suffering everywhere, just so we can spend our whole life begging him to deliver us from Evil” – there is a view of a malicious, self-serving, insecure God here which does not tally with the God of the Bible. The Bible discusses suffering from a number of perspectives the ultimate of which is of our God himself suffering on our behalf -even on behalf of those who refuse to acknowledge him
  • Coelho states that Job ended up in the state of suffering and loss that he did because God decided to punish him. The book of Job clearly states that Satan was given the power to reduce Job to this state by God, not as a punishment, but in order to show that he was a faithful man and that this faithfulness depended not on the total of his blessings but the God who gave them. The restoration of Job to a greater position of blessing later is not mentioned by Coelho presumably because it would not match his view of God as malevolent. Later he states that “our real enemy is God for putting us through everything we’ve suffered” which is a perspective so woefully short of that of the reasons for suffering outlined in the Bible that I hardly know where to begin to refute it.

In all this we see Coelho painting God as the hateful enemy of mankind, tolerating the misery we cause him and the subject of his wrath. Now, if Coelho had stated somewhere that he was simply talking about deity on the whole and had not singled out the Christian God by quoting from the Bible early on, I wouldn’t have to take the pains I have done here. But it is unjust to represent someone as something they are not – especially when they have been so clearly painstaking in communicating exactly who they are.

Despite these distorted perspectives of God, the book is a valuable read for anyone dealing with issues of morality which should hopefully be any Christian anyway. It would make a great starter for inter-faith dialogue and discussion and would be helpful for anyone who was open about finding out what others believe morality rests on and how we make decisions. For that, it’s worth reading and sharing.

OPENING LINE
For almost fifteen years, old Berta had spent every day sitting outside her front door.

WORDS
introit

QUOTES

the story of one man is the story of all men

rich men never waste a penny, only poor people do that

if you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid

anyone who loves in the expectation of being loved in return is wasting their time

each one of us carries a gallows inside us

CLOSING LINE
The old woman was right; there was no time to lose, though she hoped that her life would be very long indeed.

RATING:
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb

  • Jorge September 16, 2007, 12:44 am

    Hello!
    If you liked this Paulo Coelho book you might want to visit his blog
    http://www.paulocoelhoblog.com
    I’ve started as a fan and now I’m collaborating with him and thought that you would like to enter his universe.
    Check the blog, if you want, or subscribe to his newsletter
    http://www.warriorofthelight.com/engl/index.html

    You’ll see a community of warriors of light sharing ideas, dreams and most importantly following their personal legend.
    QUOTE OF THE DAY:
    “Love is not to be found in someone else,
    but in ourselves; we simply awaken it.
    But in order to do that,
    we need the other person.”

    See you there and have a great day!
    Jorge

    Reply
  • CT June 8, 2009, 10:40 pm

    Granted…this post is from 2007 but I am only finding it now and I beg to differ on your statement about PC “painting God as the hateful enemy of mankind, tolerating the misery we cause him and the subject of his wrath. ” I think that he presents a view that many humans have about God. Furthermore, although he does not state it explicitly, PC reminds us of God’s greatest gift to human beings – the gift of free will.

    We have a choice between good and evil. Nothing is preordained. As the final discussion of Ahab and St. Sabin revealed…it ultimately comes down to choice and control.

    Reply
  • Arukiyomi June 9, 2009, 1:51 pm

    Thanks for the comment CT. I think you’re absolutely right when you say that he presents a view that many humans have about God and you may well differ with the way that I’ve interpreted how PC has portrayed God.

    However, I gave explicit examples from the book to illustrate why I think he portrays God the way he does so that it wasn’t just my opinion. It would be good for you to provide examples of how PC’s view differs from that which I’ve described.

    Your statement that “nothing is preordained” is extremely sweeping and will take not some small Biblical justification. Feel free to comment if you want to do so though.

    IMO, God’s greatest gift to us was his own self.

    Reply
  • daniel October 1, 2009, 7:59 am

    Coelho states that Job ended up in the state of suffering and loss that he did because God decided to punish him.

    Reply
    • Arukiyomi October 1, 2009, 8:04 am

      yes I know. And that’s contrary to the Biblical account and therefore a misrepresentation.

      Reply
  • Rrap January 5, 2010, 11:29 pm

    It is soooo dissapointing that you didnt like Veronika Decides to Die. It is Coelho’s masterpeices and its my favourite book. Not liking a piece such as Veronika Decides to DIe from my opinion is heretical… I suggest you read the book again and really understand it.

    Reply
    • Arukiyomi January 11, 2010, 2:09 pm

      yes, I might well have misunderstood it. I wasn’t reading novels as a rule back when I read it. I read non-fiction only at that time and I probably didn’t have the experience of reading novels that would have helped me understand it. Perhaps a re-read would be a good idea!

      Reply

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