#NaNoWriMo: W is for… The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

“People are never satisfied. If they have a little, they want more. If they have a lot, they want still more. Once they have more, they wish they could be happy with little, but are incapable of making the slightest effort in that direction.”

Paulo Coelho, The Winner Stands Alone

The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho is a fascinating tale centred on the Cannes Film Festival. Previously known as the International Film Festival, Cannes (France) was first created in 1939 however the first edition did not occur until a year after the Second World War ended. The Cannes Film Festival was the initiative of the Minister for Education and Fine Arts at the time and by all accounts, he wished to create a cultural event to rival the Venice Film Festival. The aim of the festival is to encourage the development of filmmaking in all its forms; the Cannes Film Festival has gained a legendary international reputation and has become synonymous with fame, power and incredible creative talent.

Coelho isn’t known for his subtlety and The Winner Stands Alone is no exception. He tells an evocative tale of the Festival in all its glitz and glamour and his disapproval for the characters vanity and excess is evident on every page. The reader is introduced to the players and posers behind the scenes at Cannes; Coelho focuses on what he calls ‘the superclass’ – the men and women to whom wealth means everything. The producers, actors, designers and supermodels as well as those desperately vying for attention are all portrayed in the worst possible way; Coelho paints a vicious picture of the dangerous and obsessive nature of fame.

To quote Jane Austen,

“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

As usual, her observations on life are spot on and describe this book perfectly. The Winner Stands Alone is a story that explores the thirst for fame and the unbridled ambition that drives people to do unimaginable things. To these people, life is a game to be played no matter the cost. Beneath the glitz and glamour is a very sad world; desperation and fear drives the behaviour of many of the characters as they attempt to maintain a false façade of power. Coelho explores the very shaky moral ground of these characters and the more desperate they become, the more it falls apart.

I have read a few of Coelho’s books and even though The Alchemist is a beautiful book, this one is my favourite by far. I thoroughly enjoyed the vindictive nature of Coelho’s writing. Despite his own fame and fortune, he is ruthless in challenging the sinners of all social classes; he is equally as judgemental on the lowly actress doing all she can to secure her name as he is on those who are at the top of their game and think that excuses their terrible behaviour. His depiction of human folly is more enjoyable that I first thought it would be!


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