12 May, 2021

Serenity Before Death

Mata Hari was modernity’s first exotic beauty and celebrity. Her tragic, dignified life has now inspired the best-selling Paulo Coelho.

Serenity Before Death

The Spy is based on Mata Hari’s tragic story, beautifully woven in her own words, of a woman who dared to defy the hidebound conventions of a century back and paid for it with facing a firing squad in a French prison. Coelho has painted a sympathetic picture of a vulnerable tragic figure, which still mystifies the world.

Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian author, is an international phenomenon whose books have been most widely translated and sold worldwide. His readers include the former US President Bill Clinton. Belonging to the generation of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Coelho has been a non-conformist, living life on the edge. His books have been inspired mainly by his own life.

The story begins with an innocent Dutch girl, Margaratha Zelle, named after a famous dancer, who marries an officer of the Dutch Army but comes into her own as Mata Hari, who dances her way into the hearts of Paris despite being desperately poor when she arrives in the city. As Coelho says in one of his earlier works, “you don’t choose your...

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