The Witch of Portobello

The Witch of Portobello, another fascinating book by Paulo Coelho, greeted me at a small bookstore at Soekarno Hatta airport last week. It immediately landed in my hand for an exchange with a couple of banknotes equal to IDR.90,000.

It was a perfect companion to liven up the time during a three and a half hour flight to Bangkok on my way to attend a meeting. After putting my camera and my travel bag in a safe place, my eyes started jumping between blank spaces to read the words that made up the sentences.

Imagineabookwithoutblankspacelikethis, how would it be? Itwillbeabitdifficulttocomprehend, right? It's the blank spaces which gives meaning to a sentence, says Coelho in the book. Just like the pauses which make wonderful music. There are blank spaces in everyone's life that need to be understood to make one's souls composed and calm.

The Witch of Portobello is a story of a gifted Gypsy young woman named Sherine Khalil, or Athena as she prefers to call herself, from the perspectives of people, such as:
  • a journalist who falls in love with her but never posses her physically;
  • an actress who hates but accepts her as a teacher;
  • a doctor and a witch who becomes her psychic teacher;
  • her adopted mother who took her from an adoption center in Transylvania, Romania, since she was a baby;
  • an engineer and ex-husband who loves her so much but then decided to ask for a divorce, leaving her alone with her beloved son, Viorel;
  • a priest who admires her talents but then abandoned her due to a rigid rule of a church;
  • owner of an apartment where Athena once lived, who introduced her with "the Search for the Vertex" spiritual dance originated from a remote village of Diedov, somewhere in Siberia;
  • a Bedouin who lives in the dessert of Dubai who becomes her teacher in revealing the secret of calligraphy;
and with a final notes from a detective at Scotland Yard, Athena's boy friend, who transcribed all the taped interviews for her.

Wisdom and provoking thoughts are abundant in this 268 pages of the book. With an open heart and mind, and a little imagination, you will surely be inspired and learn something from the book, regardless what your faith is.

The English version of the book was first published in May 2007 in hardcover, and the international printing that I bought was published in March 2008. Highly recommended.

, seorang pejalan musiman dan penyuka sejarah. Penduduk Jakarta yang sedang tinggal di Cikarang Utara. Diperbarui: April 02, 2008.

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