Posts Tagged ‘The Witch of Portobello’

A Time to Dance

October 10, 2011

It is not often I get the chance to listen to the afternoon play on BBC Radio 4, a pity, as it is usually very good.

I caught it in parts today. I was overcome by a strange sense of deja vu. It was earie, I was reminded of The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho.

A lone dancer was dancing on the South Bank in London. She had people entranced. More and more joined in. They started to dance in Manchester, all across the country, then across the world. Then one of the dancers died of exhaustion.

All was narated by a reporter, with others giving their views. Even down to BBC Radio 4 news reports.

I kept doing a double take, was I not listening to the news, not a play. It was so well done.

I had an wierd sense this was Athena.

The drama was improvised.

I’d love to know, had they read The Witch Of Portobello?

A Time To Dance

Writing as a spiritual activity

September 24, 2011

While I was writing The Witch of Portobello, the main character Athena started to unfold in such an unexpected way thanks to its structure.

It was as if I was chasing after her: I had no idea how her story would end but got really excited by the opportunities that aroused from the different perspectives.

At one point in my book, the character of Nabeel Al Ehi teaches Athena the following:

Even a simple letter demands that we put all power into it that we have, as if we were to carve its meaning in hard stone.

Thus, when holy scripts find their place on paper, they also include the person’s soul.

Because the hand leading the line reflects the soul of the writer.

In this excerpt, he voices my view on writing. I regard writing as a spiritual activity.

It’s the moment, when, in silence, I’m able to talk to myself, to connect to my soul. But you can apply that to any act performed with commitment, humility and love.

— Paulo Coelho

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

The Witch of Portobello in a bookshop

April 15, 2011

The Witch of Portobello

I was in a bookshop today in Guildford. I let a lady go before me as she was laden down with books. There is one book you have missed I said, and you are very lucky I have not taken it, The Witch of Portobello. Her eyes opened wide. That was the one book that caught me eye she told me, but I did not get it as I did not know the author. Well now is your chance I told her, and she added it to her purchase.

I will tell you a story I said.

I then told her the story of a stone as told by Ken Crane at the end of Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day party. His wife Yumi picked a stone. When he was asked to pick a stone, Ken picked the same stone. The stone was the Alchemist Stone!

I explained to her that these were examples of synchronicity, a term coined by Carl Jung

Synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer.

I gave her another example. The previous week I had come to Guildford for lunch and had hoped to find a friend. Sadly I did not. I was again in Guildford on Monday. Before I left the house I had a message from Paulo Coelho to say O Aleph (Elif in Turkey) had been released in Hungary and had shot straight to No One. I arrived in Guildford, was on my way to lunch, when there was my friend sat by the river reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My friend is Hungarian!

The Witch of Portobello tells the tale of Athena. Sherine Khalil, or Athena as she is known, believed to be of gypsy descent, was rescued by her adoptive parents from an orphanage in Transylvania in Romania. Her early childhood was in Lebanon, then in London. My Hungarian friend is from Transylvania.

When I chatted to my Hungarian friend, I said Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a good choice to read. I commented on the love you put into your work, something I said Paulo Coelho had said at his press conference in Istanbul. I had long forgotten I had written something similar when I wrote of the film of The Witch of Portobello.

Scribes had an important role in early Judaism, theirs was the task to copy out ancient scriptures. They had to be in the correct frame of mind. The same was true for illustrators of early Muslim texts. It does matter what you do, be it write a book, paint, draw, compose music or carve a piece of wood. Robert Pirsig captured the essence of this in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Only then do you cross the transition zone.

I mentioned to the lady I met in the bookshop that Carolena Sabah starred as Athena in the film of The Witch of Portobello and that I had the pleasure of meeting her at Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day party in Istanbul.

I wandered to the Castle Grounds and flipped through the two books I had picked up, one of which was 500 Illustrations by G Curtis Jones and Paul H Jones, a collection of inspirational and thought-provoking stories and anecdotes. Or as the subtitle says: Stories from Life for Preaching & Teaching. One of the stories which caught my eye was Good Samaritans, a tale of a random act of kindness, a motorist stopping to help a fellow stranded motorist. When I got home in the evening I found Carolena Sabah had posted as a facebook note a very similar story Kindness is Contagious involving herself. Not only that, the time when she posted the story was at the same time I was sat in the Castle Grounds in Guildford reading Good Samaritans!

I knew Paulo Coelho had posted on his blog today a story about dance, but it was only when I got home this evening I saw it was taken from The Witch of Portobello! [see Dance!]

Dance!

April 15, 2011

I have no solution for Learned Helplessness (check the post and the moving comments). But I know one thing:

Everything moves. And everything moves to a rhythm.

And everything that moves produces a sound; that is happening here and all over the world at this very moment.

Our ancestors noticed the same thing when they tried to escape from the cold in their caves: things moved and made noise.

The first human beings perhaps looked on this with awe, and then with devotion: they understood that this was the way that a Superior Being communicated with them.

They began to imitate the noises and movements around them, hoping to communicate with this Being: and dancing and music were born.

When we dance, we are free.

To put it better, our spirit can travel through the universe, while our body follows a rhythm that is not part of the routine.

In this way, we can laugh at our sufferings large or small, and deliver ourselves to a new experience without any fear.

While prayer and meditation take us to the sacred through silence and inner pondering, in dance we celebrate with others a kind of collective trance.

They can write whatever they want about dancing, but it is no use: you have to dance to find out what they are talking about.

Dance to the point of exhaustion, like mountain-climbers scaling some sacred peak.

Dance until, out of breath, our organism can receive oxygen in a way that it is not used to, and this ends up making us lose our identity, our relation with space and time.

Dance!

An extract from The Witch of Portobello posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

Paulo Coelho posted a different video on his blog, but I could only watch the video for less than a minute as I could not stomach watching the anorexic dancers. It made me feel ill looking at them.

The Bolereo performance, which I have used, is the breathtaking routine by Torvill and Dean at the 1984 Winter Olympics for which they were awarded a Gold Medal. They were awarded perfect 6 by all the judges. Something that had never been achieved before and has never been achieved since. Watching one loses all sense of time and space, it seems to go on for all eternity, one is spellbound. It is one of those performances that sends shivers down the spine.

To quote William Blake

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

I agree with Paulo Coelho, there is something about dance, and to that I would add music, that lifts the spirit.

What is underlying is rhythm.

Why?

Maybe, and I am guessing, it is rhythm that underlies the very foundation of life.

Visit any culture, be it in time and space, and music and dance are at the heart of that culture.

I can be in Puerto de la Cruz during La Carnaval. The people do not walk, they move to the rhythm of the music.

That is why it is sad and depressing that music has been hijacked by big business and lousy programmes like X Factor to the detriment of music. I can find better music on the streets of Brighton. And why is it better, because the people enjoy playing it, they are communicating with the Soul of the World.

Dance has been degraded to clubbing.

Clubbing: go out, get drunk, throw up in the street and pick a fight.

A friend is a Street Angel. Street Angels are volunteers who patrol the streets at night looking out for the vulnerable and defusing trouble. In essence picking up the pieces of a broken society. [see Talking with a Street Angel]

I love where in the film of The Witch of Portobello Carolena Sabah who plays the part of Athena does her dance routine.

Hildegard von Bingen talked of herself being ‘a feather on the breath of God.’

Handel’s Messiah was an inspiration from angels and an attempt to capture their voices. On completing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ Handel is reported to have exclaimed ‘I think I did see all Heaven open before me and the great God Himself.’

If there is one thing that makes us difference from the rest of God’s creatures it is not what we arrogantly claim to be our superior intelligence, it is music. Yes, other creatures may sing, but they do not make use of musical instruments.

For my lovely Hungarian friend who likes dance, skating and Paulo Coelho.

And for my lovely friend Sian who loves to dance.

Synhronicity: I was in a bookshop today. I let a lady go before me as she was laden down with books. There is one book you have missed I said, and you are very lucky I have not taken it, The Witch of Portobello. Her eyes opened wide. That was the one book that caught me eye she told me, but I did not get it as I did not know the author. Well now is your chance I told her, and she added it to her purchase. I then told her the story of the stone as told by Ken Crane at the end of Paulo’s St Joseph’s Day party. His wife Yumi picked a stone. When he was asked to pick a stone, Ken picked the same stone. The stone was called The Alchemist Stone! I knew Paul had posted this story about dance, but it was only when I got home this evening I saw it was taken from The Witch of Portobello! [see The Witch of Portobello in a bookshop]

Synchronicty: I knew Paulo had written on dance, but my thoughts on dance were before I had read what he had written. I then read what he had written and found he had written similar to myself! All I had noticed was the anorexic dancers and decided Torvill and Dean gave a far better performance of Ravel’s Bolero.

Synchronicty: I am currently reading The Eight (highly recommended) and if there is one underlying theme it is that of rhythm.

More then common sense dictates

February 7, 2011

The Witch of Portobello is a novel by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. It is a refection of the feminine side of religion.

A reflection on what Athena is thinking. Haunting.

For my lovely friend Sian.

Synchronicity: I was thinking of Pilar, the central character in By the River Piedra I sat Down and Wept. Like The Witch of Portobello, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is a refection of the feminine side of religion. Whilst thinking these thoughts, Hildegarde Follon wrote to me, which caused me to stumble upon her refection of what Athena was thinking!

Joy is like sex

March 30, 2010
etching by Rembrandt

etching by Rembrandt

I’m going in search of the adventure of being alive.

And it’s complicated: why am I not looking for happiness when everyone has taught me that happiness is the only goal worth pursuing?

Why am I going to risk taking a path that no one else is taking? After all, what is happiness?

Love, they tell me. But love doesn’t bring and never has brought happiness.

On the contrary, its a constant state of anxiety, a battlefield; its sleepless nights, asking ourselves all the time if we’re doing the right thing. Real love is composed of ecstacy and agony. All right then, peace.

Peace? If we look at the Mother, she’s never at peace. The winter does battle with the summer, the sun and moon never meet, the tiger chases the man, who’s afraid of the dog, who chases the cat, who chases the mouse, who frightens the man.

Money brings happiness. Fine. In that case, everyone who earns enough to have a high standard of living would be able to stop work. But then they’re more troubled than ever, as if they were afraid of losing everything. Money attracts money, that’s true. Poverty might bring unhappiness, but money wont necessarily bring happiness. I spent a lot of my life looking for happiness, now what i want is joy.

Joy is like sex – it begins and ends. I want pleasure. I want to be contended, but happiness? I no longer fall into that trap.

Extracted from the novel The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho and also reproduced on his blog. A novel that explores the feminine side of God.

Also see

What is wrong with the church?

Eleven Minutes The Opera

The Witch of Portobello

October 9, 2009
Paulo Coelho's World Premier of 'The Witch of Portobello'

Paulo Coelho's World Premier of 'The Witch of Portobello'

‘The unifying trait of all Tadeh’s projects is the fact that they make the audience think and to look deeper into the meaning of the philosophical and humanitarian questions posed by their creator.’ — Lianna Zakharian of YEREVAN magazine

‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ — Tadeh Daschi

‘I relate to her quest for truth and spirituality. At a young age, my story was similar to hers. She was interested in God and had these powers to see things. I had a lot of interest in God and why we’re here and questions that can’t be answered. But I wanted to search for it and find a meaning in life.’ — Carolena Sabah

‘I’m learning to combine two things, movement and stillness, joy and concentration.’ — Athena

‘I believe @keithpp explains better than my page “The Experimental Witch”.’ — Paulo Coelho on twitter 24 hours before Rome premier

The Witch of Portobello is a novel by Paulo Coelho. It is not like his earlier works, it is not like The Alchemist. For that reason many did not like it.

Maybe that was the intention, to jolt one out of ones complacency, to create a different reality as Athena does with her dance and music.

I could not get into The Witch of Portobello when I first tried, mainly because of this difference. I have since read it twice. I enjoyed it even more at the second reading.

http://www.heureka.clara.net/books/the-witch-of-portobello.htm

The Witch of Portobello is a film based upon an idea by Paulo Coelho. Instead of handing over the film rights to a film company who completely mangle your work and what comes out the other end bears no resemblance to your original work which begs the question why they acquired the film rights in the first place, Paulo Coelho took a completely different approach. He invited via his blog, to each film the story from the perspective of one of the characters. Not as difficult as it sounds as each character has a different voice and  we piece together the story of Athena from the perspective of these different characters. This was whittled down to a shortlist who were to produce the final feature length film.

http://paulocoelhoblog.com/experimental-witch/
http://paulocoelhoblog.com/experimental-witch-videos/

The Witch of Portobello has its world premier at the Rome International Film Festival 9pm Tuesday 20 October 2009. But do not go rushing to the film festival because as I write, tickets were all sold out a couple of days ago.

http://www.romacinemafest.it/romacinemafest/
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=147522569439&ref=mf

As I write I have just received a copy of the first chapter. I thought it was the entire film, but Carolena Sabah who plays Athena has kindly corrected me, first chapter, Athena only, others have produced other characters, other chapters, to have its first international showing at the Rome premier.

http://www.carolenasabah.com/
http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=38046961

The sound track with music by Visa is amazing! I am intrigued to see how the following characters capture the soul of the book as well as  Carolena Sabah and her co-stars have done under the direction of Tadeh Daschi who also composed the haunting music performed by Visa. The haunting music by Visa blows your mind away. Soonest an album release.

http://www.myspace.com/visa
http://www.myspace.com/tadehdaschi 

Visa lead singer K’noup makes a cameo appearance in the The Witch of Portobello together with Soseh Keshishyan lead singer from the band Element whose vocals are on the film soundtrack.

Athena’s world is a world of ritual, trance, magic. I cannot now read The Witch of Portobello without the image of Athena portrayed by Carolena Sabah. Strange, when I read a novel I rarely have an image of any of the characters, and yet when I see them portrayed on screen they are not as I imagined. I did not have this problem with the portrayal of Athena.

It is rare for filmmakers to capture the essence of a book and yet Carolena Sabah and Tedeh Daschi have somehow managed that impossible feat.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=32525137684

The DVD needs a mini-documentary. Not the usual sugar-coated gush that makes the stomach churn. Five to ten minutes of Carolena Sabah and  Tadeh Daschi explaining how the film came about, where it was filmed, with an introduction by Paulo Coelho. Maybe this can be added after the Rome premier, maybe with the address by Paulo Coelho, plus question and answer session with the audience.

Scribes had an important role in early Judaism, theirs was the task to copy out ancient scriptures. They had to be in the correct frame of mind. The same was true for illustrators of early Muslim texts. It does matter what you do, be it write a book, paint, draw, compose music or carve a piece of wood. Robert Pirsig captured the essence of this in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Only then do you cross the transition zone.

http://www.heureka.clara.net/religion/crossing-the-transition-zone.htm

The Witch of Portobello, aka Athena, is on a spiritual quest, a quest for love, a quest for truth. But was the world ready for her revelations?

Two other Paulo Coelho novels have been turned into films: Veronika Decides to Die and The Alchemist.

https://keithpp.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/the-alchemist-as-a-film/

The Winner Stands Alone, the latest novel by Paulo Coelho, is a damning indictment of the film and fashion industry and the cult of celebrity.

http://www.heureka.clara.net/books/the-winner-stands-alone.htm

Mango has launched a second range of exclusive, Paulo Coelho limited edition solidarity t-shirts. Monies raised goes to support needy children at the Paulo Coelho Institute in Brazil.

http://www.indymedia.org/en/2009/04/923797.shtml
http://bit.ly/XnAv7
http://www.paulocoelho.com/port/ins.shtml

Paulo Coelho was part of the Rio 2016 team in Copenhagen.

https://keithpp.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/rio-2016/

Tadeh Daschi is featured in YEREVAN magazine (Fall 2009), an English language quarterly Armenian magazine.

http://yerevanmagazine.com/

The 28-minute film by Carolena Sabah and Tedeh Daschi was first shown at the Arpa International Film Festival in Hollywood October 2008. The film festival was sponsored by the Arpa Foundation for Film Music and Art, Arpa is named after the river of the same name in Armenia. Founded in 1995, the foundation promotes the arts.

http://www.affma.org/
http://www.glendalenewspress.com/articles/2008/10/25/entertainment/gnp-film25.prt

The 28-minute film cost $7,000 to produce, loose change to Hollywood.

The Alchemist as a film

October 1, 2009

‘I feel like the luckiest man on the planet. It’s a dream come true for me, to be able to direct and star and bring Coelho’s book to the screen.’ —  Laurence Fishburne

I have my doubts of The Alchemist as a film. I am not the only one, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho tried unsuccessfully to buy back the film rights.

http://www.heureka.clara.net/books/the-alchemist.htm
http://www.heureka.clara.net/art/paulo-coelho.htm

Nothing ruins a good book than a bad film. Something I have never understood, is buying the rights to a book, then producing a film that has no resemblance to the film other than the title.

If The Alchemist is to be turned into a film, I would have seen it directed by a Chinese director, say the director of House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower, as I am sure they would have done a better job, especially the desert scene.

The problem with American directors is that they are more interested in American bums on seat and their limited attention span, than producing a good film. To them a film is a product, not an artistic creation.

Two other Paulo Coelho novels have been turned into films: Veronika Decides to Die and The Witch of Portobello.

http://www.heureka.clara.net/books/veronika-decides-to-die.htm
http://www.heureka.clara.net/books/the-witch-of-portobello.htm

Veronika Decides to Die has been shown in Brazil, but as far as I am aware has not been released elsewhere. A key moment of Veronika Decides to Die  is as Veronika lies dying, she is annoyed by a supposedly witty comment of a journalist who does not know where Slovenia is. The film is set in New York!

The Witch of Portobello is as I write on its way to me on DVD.  Directed by Los Angeles filmmaker Tadeh Daschi, the film stars Carolena Sabah as the enigmatic Athena. The film was the result of a competition organised by Paulo Coelho. The original music featured in the film was composed by  Tadeh Daschi and showcases world music group Visa.

http://www.carolenasabah.com

The Witch of Portobello will be premiered at the Rome Film Festival October 2009.

http://www.romacinemafest.it/romacinemafest/

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=38046961

The Winner Stands Alone, the latest novel by Paulo Coelho, is a damning indictment of the film and fashion industry and the cult of celebrity.

http://www.heureka.clara.net/books/the-winner-stands-alone.htm

At $60 million (a Harvey Weinstein production), a big budget film for a very simple story. In announcing his production on the beach at the Cannes film Festival in 2008, it was a parody of The Winner Stands Alone or what it the other way around? Do we have life imitating art or  art imitating life?

The Alchemist is a $60 million Harvey Weinstein production, staring and directed by Laurence Fishburne.  Following the announcement at Cannes, filming was scheduled to start spring last year at various locations in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2008/05/alchemist-laure.html

The Alchemist recently celebrated two years in The New York Times best seller list. Not bad for a book that was first published twenty years ago.