'ALEPH' takes the readers on a journey spanning the 9288 km of the Trans-Siberian railway and guides them on a trip through space and time. The story is about Paulo, a renowned writer, who embarks on this journey in search of his spiritual peace.
The story starts with Paulo confessing to his mentor, J, his disappointments with life and the Tradition, which he learned for years. On his advice, Paulo starts travelling through the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia, signing books, meeting readers and slowly conquering his kingdom.
Filled with euphoria, he commits to a train-ride through Russia. He meets Hilal, a beautiful young woman and violin virtuoso, during his sojourn in Moscow. She claims that they were destined to meet and that she had the answers to all of Paulo's questions. Soon he realises that Hilal was the key to his spiritual expedition.
Despite the constant disapprovals of his editor and publisher, he lets Hilal tag along. He discovers that they were entangled in a spiritual web of love 500 years back, when they entered the Aleph, a parallel dimension where there is no past or future but all is present. Over the course of the journey, the story of their past unravels; he unlocks the secrets with the help of Hilal, and discovers that he betrayed her in their past lives.
The tension increases near the end where the two protagonists find themselves in love with each other in their current lives. But their romantic desires need to be broken in order to carry on with their separate lives.
Throughout the story, Paulo talks about spiritual concepts including incarnations. A person will somehow relive the incidents that happened in his past lives, till nirvana is reached.
Aleph is a story of love, forgiveness and spiritual enlightenment. It is the most personal book of his till date. If you haven't read Paulo Coelho's books before 'The Alchemist; would be a good start. His books speak to those who take life as the train and not the station. These tell the stories of Paulo himself, of the characters and of us.