Paulo Coelho on “Ulysses.”

Paulo Coelho, speaking to a Brazilian newspaper:

One of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses,’ which is pure style. There is nothing there. Stripped down, ‘Ulysses’ is a twit.

A rather strident riposte (“Coelho is an idiot”), can be read here. The comments are baffling, and it is difficult to determine if Coehlo is particularly jealous or simply careless. Isn’t part of what makes Ulysses such a great novel just how much you have to “strip down”? And that all of the stripping isn’t pure style, but layers and layers of what actually constitute everyday life? This must be where I (and, well, most everybody else ever) disagree with Coehlo. Perhaps the author simply just doesn’t want to understand Ulysses.

I’ve read one novel by Coelho, and while it wasn’t great, it was at least entertaining. (In the way a slightly clever sermon at a church you don’t attend can be entertaining.) There are echoes in this kerfuffle of when Nicholas Sparks called Cormac McCarthy “horrible” and compared himself to Hemingway. Which may actually make Coehlo better by comparison.