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Paulo Coelho is known worldwide for his simple narratives that are woven with self-discovery and punctuated by his unique wisdom. In his latest novel, HIPPIE, Coelho follows the story of his younger self and those he met in his travels during the early ’70s. Beginning on the Death Train destined for Bolivia, to the Magic Bus from Europe to Kathmandu, Coelho transports his readers to a time when mass amounts of people could travel through Europe on five dollars a day and find pleasant company wherever they went.

Coelho writes that no one knew what the word “hippie” meant. He reckons that it could mean “a large tribe without a leader” or “delinquents who don’t steal.” Critics would condemn them as seekers of sex, drugs and rock and roll. None of these definitions quite fit. Perhaps this is because the hippies were not looking for labels to attach to themselves; they were looking for the meaning of their existence. Through the stories that Coelho shares, he makes it apparent that the hippies with whom he traveled were strong individuals, each seeking something deeply personal.

The “invisible post” was the network of communication that the hippies used. Word of the Gate of the Sun, dancing dervishes, Amsterdam square, or a bridge from Europe to Asia would be spread wherever the hippies gathered. They were trading ideas and forming a culture of personal connection. The “invisible post” brought Paulo into this world and gave him what he needed to know to leave everything behind and travel the world. The focal point of HIPPIE is human connection --- what happens when we “allow two souls the time to get to know each other.”

"Paulo Coelho presents a nuanced view of the hippies and gently explores their lifestyle and values by imparting his personal experience upon the reader."

The first person who touches Paulo’s life is his first love: a Yugoslavian woman 11 years his senior. She embarks on the Death Train with him, though she seems to care more for the travel than the full lifestyle of the hippies. They become separated and imprisoned in Bolivia. Beaten and confined, Paulo endures a truly horrifying experience. The two are eventually reunited, but part ways. She teaches Paulo to allow himself to fill and empty with love, always carrying on with his life.

Paulo’s relationship to Karla is the axial connection in the novel. Karla has always known that she is viewed as “the perfect woman.” Being aware of this drives her to find some greater truth --- an absolute that truly is perfect. She is closed off to the rest of the world, never having experienced love. By the work of either fate or the divine, Paulo approaches her on a bench in Holland to introduce himself, and they simply become tethered to one another. She convinces him to travel with her to Nepal on the Magic Bus and changes the course of his life. Karla critiques Paulo as a follower from the moment he joins the Hare Krishna, dancing and singing through the streets of Amsterdam. She is never gentle with him, but her guidance sets him on his own path and teaches him to seek out his truth by following his passions.

On the Magic Bus, Paulo encounters many people, including an Irish couple. The man had previously spent two weeks in Nepal, and is certain he could be there for two years or more. He had begged his girlfriend to return with him, and she eventually agreed. The two are both following their hearts --- his leading him to Nepal, and the woman’s heart telling her to go with her love.

Another traveling pair is a father and daughter, Jacques and Marie. Marie had begun to live out the hippie lifestyle as a college student. Her father abruptly left his marketing job and asked her to go on the Magic Bus with him and teach him everything she has learned. In the face of the press, police officers and thugs alike, Jacques and Marie stand up for themselves and their traveling group as they challenge people’s prejudice toward hippies.

To the rest of the world, hippies seemed to be screaming who they were and what they stood for. In this novel, Paulo Coelho presents a nuanced view of the hippies and gently explores their lifestyle and values by imparting his personal experience upon the reader.

Reviewed by Julianne Holmquist on October 5, 2018

by Paulo Coelho

  • Publication Date: September 25, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0525655611
  • ISBN-13: 9780525655619