NIHILISM

Book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

The Winner Stands Alone


By Paulo Coelho

PAULO COELHO (BRAZILIAN AUTHOR, WRITER, LYRICIST)

Every life is a world.  Paulo Coelho’s The Winner Stands Alone magnifies the ephemeral nature of money, power, and fame.  After reading “The Winner…” one might conclude–in life, we stand alone; in death, we die alone.

However, Coelho suggests something different; i.e. we stand or die but are accompanied by either a good or bad angel.  It seems Coelho believes human existence is a fulfillment of destiny. Coelho implies there is no free will.

The Winner Stands Alone is a love-it or leave-it experience.  If it is a first exposure to Coelho, a reader will likely leave it.

Coelho also wrote “The Alchemist” which is a preordained destiny story but it is more hopeful in the sense that when one dreams, dreams can become reality. It speaks to the power of conviction, self-understanding, and never giving up.

“The Winner Stands Alone” is a dark tale, cleverly written about the world of glitz, glamour, fame, and fortune.  Set in Cannes during Festival, the vacuity of a nihilist’s life is stripped bare.

In “The Winner Stands Alone” Coelho cleverly reveals an evil protagonist’s nihilism.


Coelho’s “Winner…” is a nihilist who believes that existence has no objective meaning or intrinsic value. His belief inures to nothingness. 

Coelho’s main character, Igor, is a Russian millionaire.  Igor is a “Heisenberg-like” character with skills of a killer, passions of a romantic, and intelligence of a savant.  Igor lives by instinct, like a viper with a human brain.  He creates a demented plan to recover the love of his ex-wife. 

Igor’s plan is to destroy worlds (the lives of others) to demonstrate depth of love for a woman who has abandoned him.  Igor murders several of Cannes’ rich attendees and one poor shop girl with each victim losing their personal world of experience and existence. 

Igor sends IMs to his ex-wife at the end of each murder.  Each destroyed world punctuates Igor’s arrival and pending reunion with his lost love.  The reunion caps Coelho’s story.

An aspiring Cannes’ police detective, like Hercule Peoirot, recognizes a serial murderer is at work before Igor’s reunion takes place.  The detective recounts former serial murderer cases to reveal common threads of intent.  Igor’s intent is seen by the detective as a message that, once delivered, will stop the serial killing at the Cannes’ festival.

What may keep a reader reading “The Winner Stands Alone” is the desire to know how the story will end.  Will Igor be caught?  Is human existence a fulfillment of destiny or life lived by instinct? Is there a difference?

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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