This is an excerpt from Paulo Coelho’s latest book, Aleph.
According to his blog, the title is a word used to refer to the point where time and space converge, but other sources say he is referring to the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately I will probably have to order it through Amazon or ask someone abroad to buy me a copy, since Coelho’s books were banned here in July. I’ve asked Virgin Megastore and Jarir Bookstore, and they’ve confirmed that it won’t be arriving. Sad, but I will wait – the anticipation will only make the read all the better.
I see that Hilal is starting to feel uncomfortable.
‘I’m not interested in what our relationship was in a past life. We’re here in the present. In Novosibirsk, you made me forgive you and I did. Now I’m asking you a favour: tell me that you love me.’
I hold her hand.
‘You see this river?
“ Well, in the living room in my apartment at home is a painting of a rose immersed in just such a river. Half of the painting was exposed to the effects of the water and the elements, so the edges are a bit rough, and yet I can still see part of that beautiful red rose against a gold background.
“I know the artist. In 2003, we went together to a forest in the Pyrenees and found a dried-up stream and we hid the painting under the stones on the stream bed.
‘The artist is my wife.
“When I met her, I was convinced that our relationship wouldn’t work out, and for the first two years, I was sure that one of us would leave.
“ In the five years that followed, I continued to think that we had simply got used to one another and that as soon as we realised this, we would each go our separate ways.
“ I thought that a more serious commitment would deprive me of my “liberty” and keep me from experiencing everything I wanted to experience.’
‘I understand and respect what you’re saying,’ Hilal says. ‘But in the restaurant, when you were talking about the past, you said something about love being stronger than the individual.’
‘Yes, but love is made up of choices.’
We are both gazing at the river.
‘Silence is also an answer,’ she says.
I put my arms around her, so that her head is resting on my shoulder.
‘I love you,’ I tell her.
‘I love you because all the loves in the world are like different rivers flowing into the same lake, where they meet and are transformed into a single love that becomes rain and blesses the earth.
‘I love you like a river that gives water to the thirsty and takes people where they want to go.
‘I love you like a river which understands that it must learn to flow differently over waterfalls and to rest in the shallows.
‘I love you because we are all born in the same place, at the same source, which keeps us provided with a constant supply of water. And so, when we feel weak, all we have to do is wait a little. The spring returns, the winter snows melt and fill us with new energy.
‘I receive your love and I give you mine.
“Not the love of a man for a woman, not the love of a father for a child, not the love of God for his creatures.
“But a love with no name and no explanation
‘Like a river that cannot explain why it follows a particular course, but simply flows onwards.
‘A love that asks for nothing and gives nothing in return; it is simply there. I will never be yours and you will never be mine; nevertheless, I can honestly say: I love you.’
Maybe it’s the afternoon, maybe it’s the light, but at that moment, the Universe seems finally to be in perfect harmony. We stay where we are, feeling not the slightest desire to go back to the hotel, where Yao will doubtless be waiting for me.