The Winner Stands Alone Summary

Paulo Coelho

The Winner Stands Alone

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The Winner Stands Alone Summary

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The Winner Stands Alone (2008), a novel by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, was originally published in Portuguese with the title O Vencedor esta So and was inspired by what Coelho refers to as the rising Superclass. Best known for his worldwide bestseller, The Alchemist, which has more than thirty million copies in print, Coelho has been described as likely being the author with the most followers on social media, boasting more than forty million followers combined on Twitter and Facebook. In 2014, he created the Paulo Coelho Foundation, a virtual archive of his personal papers.

The characters in The Winner Stands Alone include Igor, a Russian millionaire, and Hamid, a fashion mogul from the Middle East. Gabriela is an American actress in search of a major film role; Savoy is a criminal detective working on the biggest case of his career; Jasmine is about to embark on a successful career as a model. The novel, set at the annual International Cannes Film Festival in southern France, tells of the increasing tensions among the characters during a span of twenty-four hours. Coelho talks about the roles of morals, dreams, and power in the overly materialistic world before setting into action the goings on at the festival and exploring the lives of the “superclass.”

By including characters that are actors, models, producers, and designers among others, Coelho shows various aspects of the Cannes Festival from different points of view. He shows the out of control quests for fame and power and the status symbols that are sought after. People consider fashion of supreme importance at the festival and glitzy parties abound. Besides exploring the lives of the superclass with their limos, private planes, Botox, and high fashion tastes, Coelho tells the story of the ordinary class of people who aspire to become members of the superclass.

Igor is a successful businessman, but his perception of good and evil has become skewed. He believes, for example, that if committed for a good reason, murder is acceptable. He is obsessed with Ewa, his former wife. Ewa left him for Hamid, the fashion designer. Ewa runs a fashion shop in Moscow selling high-end “haute-couture” items. Ewa left Igor when she realized he is a psychopath capable of killing. Igor follows her to Cannes, resolving to do whatever is necessary to get her back. Hamid was idealistic at one time. He had wanted to challenge the prevailing system and focus on his own country’s culture with his designs but later fell into line with the ways of everyone else. Gabriela sees becoming a famous celebrity as the most important goal in life. Jasmine, while also seeking success in a very visible profession, is a moral character who does not abandon her values and is not motivated by the glamour surrounding her.

As part of his plot to win Ewa back, Igor plans to kill random people as a way of proving his love for her. His begins by killing a street vendor. His next victim is a well-known film distributor at a beach party. Although many other people are present, including his victim’s bodyguards, Igor is smart enough to avoid being caught. Being wealthy helps Igor gain access to the poisons he uses in his crimes, which also include the killing of a hotel guest with hydrogen cyanide. When he realizes that Ewa is not reacting to his messages, he considers giving up, but he sees it as his destiny to continue his spree and do everything possible to win her back.

Exploring personal power and how much of what we do is governed by what is acceptable rather than what is correct, The Winner Stands Alone is a satire on society’s obsession with fame and fortune. In reviewing The Winner Stands Alone, The Washington Post summarizes the perspective that Paulo Coelho attempts to present of the human condition. “Coelho disapproves mightily of the human folly on display in Cannes: the unbridled ambition, the thirst for fame, the lure of haute couture and ostentatious jewelry. He hates dark glasses, because ‘in a celebrity town like Cannes, [they] are synonymous with status,’ and he loathes cellphones, which are ‘leading the world into a state of utter madness.’ He posits a small group of people whom he dubs the ‘superclass,’ who have all the power, all the limos, all the private jets; those who dress in high fashion (the fashion world is one of his principal bugaboos), swill champagne, drive Maybachs (the finest car) and who, if they’re women, get regular injections of Botox. But he isn’t fond of ordinary people either, who do silly things like wear neckties or eat three meals a day whether they’re hungry or not. In short, while he compares Cannes to Sodom and Gomorrah, he’s not prepared to let sinners of any social class off the hook, quoting Solomon’s ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’ more than once and apparently meaning it.”