Paulo Coelho, The Spy: A Novel Of Mata Hari

Image result for the spy coelhoPaulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist and The Witch of Portobello, again bewitches readers with The Spy, a novel based on the life of Mata Hari.

Based on real events

Based around the historical facts surrounding her life and 1917 arrest, Coelho weaves together a first-hand account of what really happened during her life – how she felt, and justifies some of the reasons for her actions.

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The Prologue describes Mata’s gruesome execution by firing squad. Imagining her final moments as she gets dressed for a final time and fearlessly faces her own death with open eyes – refusing to be blindfolded.

The letters she penned greatly inspired Coelho, helping to shape the voice of Mata. Using the pronoun “I”, Coelho writes the story from her perspective,  in the way he believes she must have felt.

Coelho brings depth to her story, combining fact with fiction. He provides readers with both her emotional state of mind as well as researched facts behind the case – modern evidence suggests her innocence. Integrated into the story are an assortment of the lists and clippings Mata Hari had collected and deliberately left behind before her execution, as well as historical photographs of Mata herself.

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pg. 12

The Spy chronicles Mata Hari’s abusive relationship to the Indonesian Army Captain, the birth (and deaths) of her children, and her cultural isolation while living in Indonesia. Mata identifies these events as sources of the pain she faced and reveals that she used dance and sexuality as weapons to overcome her nightmare.

My decision: I could no longer accumulate problems and live so far beyond the limits of human suffering. (27)

Mata Hari’s story is a classic exhibition of overcoming ones weaknesses to assert ones self as independent. Although her rebellious actions cost her her life, she remains an archetype for the modern independent woman who refuses to stifle one’s sexuality. 

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Paulo Coelho de Souza, born August 24, 1947, is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist and the recipient of numerous international awards. He is best known for his widely translated novel The Alchemist. A keen user of electronic media, in 2014 he uploaded his personal papers online to create a virtual Paulo Coelho Foundation.

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