The Winner Stands Alone : Chapter I by Paulo Coelho

3.17 a.m.

The Beretta Px4 compact pistol is slightly larger than a mobile phone, weighs around 700 grams and can fire ten shots. Small, light, invisible when carried in a pocket, its small calibre has one enormous advantage: instead of passing through the victim’s body, the bullet hits bones and smashes everything in its path.

Obviously the chances of surviving a shot of that calibre are fairly high; there are thousands of cases in which no vital artery was severed and the victim had time to react and disarm his attacker. However, if the person firing the pistol is experienced enough, he can opt either for a quick death – by aiming at the point between the eyes or at the heart – or a slower one – by placing the barrel at a certain angle close to the ribs and squeezing the trigger. The person shot takes a while to realise that he has been mortally wounded and tries to fight back, run away or call for help. The great advantage of this is that the victim has time to see his killer’s face, while his strength ebbs slowly away and he falls to the ground, with little external loss of blood, still not fully understanding why this is happening to him.

It is far from being the ideal weapon for experts. ‘Nice and light – in a lady’s handbag. No stopping power though,’ someone in the British Secret Service tells James Bond in the first film in the series, meanwhile confiscating Bond’s old pistol and handing him a new model. However, that advice applied only to professionals, and for what he now had in mind it was perfect.

He had bought the Beretta on the black market so that it would be impossible to trace. There are five bullets in the magazine, although he intends to use only one, the tip of which he has marked with an ‘X’, using a nail file. That way, when it’s fired and hits something solid, it will break into four pieces.

He will only use the Beretta as a last resort. There are other ways of extinguishing a world, of destroying a universe, and she will probably understand the message as soon as the first victim is found. She will know that he did it in the name of love, and that he feels no resentment, but will take her back and ask no questions about her life during these past two years.

He hopes that six months of careful planning will produce results, but he will only know for sure tomorrow morning. His plan is to allow the Furies, those ancient figures from Greek mythology, to descend on their black wings to that blue-and-white landscape full of diamonds, botox and high-speed cars of no use to anyone because they carry only two passengers. With the little artifacts he has brought with him, all those dreams of power, success, fame and money could be punctured in an instant.

He could have gone up to his room because the scene he had been waiting to witness occurred at 11.11 p.m., although he would have been prepared to wait for even longer. The man and his beautiful companion arrived – both of them in full evening dress – for yet another of those gala events that take place each night after every important supper, and which attracted more people than any film première at the Festival.

Igor ignored the woman. He shielded his face behind a French newspaper (a Russian newspaper would have aroused suspicions) so that she wouldn’t see him. An unnecessary precaution: like all women who feel themselves to be queen of the world, she never looked at anyone else. Such women are there in order to shine and always avoid looking at what other people are wearing because, even if their own clothes and accessories have cost them a fortune, the number of diamonds or a particularly exclusive outfit worn by someone else might make them feel depressed or bad-tempered or inferior.

Her elegant, silver-haired companion went over to the bar and ordered champagne, a necessary aperitif for a night that promised new contacts, good music and a fine view of the beach and the yachts moored in the harbour.

He noticed how extremely polite the man was, thanking the waitress when she brought their drinks and giving her a large tip.

The three of them knew each other. Igor felt a great wave of happiness as the adrenaline began to mingle with his blood. The following day he would make her fully aware of his presence there and, at some point, they would meet.

God alone knew what would come of that meeting. Igor, an orthodox Catholic, had made a promise and sworn an oath in a church in Moscow before the relics of St Mary Magdalene (which were in the Russian capital for a week, so that the faithful could worship them). He had queued for nearly five hours and, when he finally saw them, had felt sure that the whole thing was something dreamed up by the priests. He did not, however, want to run the risk of breaking his word, and so he had asked for her protection and help in achieving his goal without too much sacrifice. And he had promised, too, that when it was all over and he could at last return to his native land, he would commission a golden icon from a well-known artist who lived in a monastery in Novosibirsk.

At three in the morning, the bar of the Hotel Martinez smells of cigarettes and sweat. By then, Jimmy (who always wears different coloured shoes) has stopped playing the piano, and the waitress is exhausted, but the people who are still there refuse to leave. They want to stay in that lobby for at least another hour or even all night until something happens!

They’re already four days into the Cannes Film Festival and still nothing has happened. Every guest at every table is interested in but one thing: meeting the people with Power. Pretty women are waiting for a producer to fall in love with them and give them a major role in their next movie. A few actors are talking amongst themselves, laughing and pretending that the whole business is a matter of complete indifference to them – but they always keep one eye on the door.

Someone is about to arrive. Someone must arrive. Young directors, full of ideas and with CVs listing the videos they made at university, and who have read everything ever written about photography and scriptwriting, are hoping for a stroke of luck; perhaps meeting someone just back from a party who is looking for an empty table where he’ll order a coffee and light a cigarette, someone who’s tired of going to the same old places all the time and feels ready for a new adventure.

How naïve!

If that did happen, the last thing such a person would want to hear about is some ‘really fresh angle’ on a hackneyed subject; but despair can deceive the desperate. The people with power who do occasionally enter merely glance around, then go up to their rooms. They’re not worried. They have nothing to fear. The Superclass does not forgive betrayals and they know their limitations – whatever the legend may say, they didn’t get where they are by trampling on others. On the other hand, if there is some important new discovery to be made – be it in the world of cinema, music or fashion – it will emerge only after much research and not in some hotel bar.

The Superclass are now making love to the girl who managed to gatecrash the party and who is game for anything. They’re taking off their make-up, studying the lines on their faces and thinking that it’s time for more plastic surgery. They’re looking at the on-line news to see if the announcement they made earlier that day has been picked up by the media. They’re taking the inevitable sleeping pill and drinking the tea that promises easy weight-loss. They’re ticking the boxes on the menu for their room service breakfast and hanging it on the door handle along with the sign saying ‘Do not disturb’. The Superclass are closing their eyes and thinking: ‘I hope I get to sleep quickly. I’ve got a meeting tomorrow at ten.’

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  1. najmun says:

    OH I just love your books…just fell in love wiuth alchemist!!!!!!…ypour books are my inspiration:)))
    im an indian n never miss a book by u:)

  2. Anuja says:

    Hello Mr. Coelho,
    Its a pleasure to read your thoughts and writing. I have almost read all books of your ….Elven minutes…Alchimist… The winner stands Alone….. and awaiting for more such books.Thanks you for being a great writer.
    With wishes,
    Anuja

    1. yogesh says:

      I’ve just finished reading The Winner Stands Alone. It is a can’t-put-down with the suspense n intrigue.found myself at the edge of the seat.very informative too!!! n for this I commend you Paulo Coelho.reading this book got me wondering how much don’t you know??n how much effort is in writing?this book more than all of your other books fueled my quest for knowledge n i loved the ending of the book.it left me wondering what next.with a lot of questions…and isn’t that how life is…with a wide array of possibilities?

  3. sagiputra says:

    I’m from Indonesia. I just want to say, Mr. Coelho is perfect. Love his books very much and still I’m still waiting his new novel.

  4. Silayio says:

    I’ve just finished reading The Winner Stands Alone. It is a can’t-put-down with the suspense n intrigue.found myself at the edge of the seat.very informative too!!! n for this I commend you Paulo Coelho.reading this book got me wondering how much don’t you know??n how much effort is in writing?this book more than all of your other books fueled my quest for knowledge n i loved the ending of the book.it left me wondering what next.with a lot of questions…and isn’t that how life is…with a wide array of possibilities?

  5. hi I’m very happy to read your book it so very interesting story,hope in the next book you have write i can buy so that i can read it.. thank you mr. coelho.

  6. Suha Ayyash says:

    This book is great, it just reinforces what is the essence of life … in any life in fact.

    I was telling my friend that I should have read this book 2 years ago and I felt bad for just reading it now, she told me it was not available in English 2 years ago, and I told her “but i saw you reading those chapters online, you should have told me that this book is giving you all the answers you are looking for”. However, my friend did gave me copies of the online first chapters and they were on my desk for months until i recently read the Zahir and the winner stands alone because I was passing with tough time and this is the way my friend thought to help me get out of this tough phase.
    What I like most about the so many issues in this book, is the similarity to the thoughts and believes and morals that I have, know, experienced or believe. And for having someone with richness and ability to sum and to present life’s wisdom, just made me realise from where am coming and it helped me to connect with similar humans.

  7. emili says:

    It is a great book! Really! I liked it so much. Now I am starting the second reading, I want to be sure I didn’t miss any of the messages. It is very different from everything I have read in my life. This book makes people (I mean inteligent people) think!
    Thank you, Mr Coelho!

  8. Koh Tao Resort says:

    Awesome, nice mix of technical detail on the weapon and drama.

  9. Eris Sahara says:

    To tell you the truth I just didn’t get it. I liked the fact that you pointed out the empty life behind all the glitz and the glamor as well as rethinking the dreams and creating our own. In fact I am quite an admirer of your work. However, here are thoughts clinging to my mind after the book ‘The Winner Stands Alone’. In fact, the last thought that came to mind was “what the hell” with all due respect, please do not misunderstand but Igor just killed off people, including Hamid whom I thought, actually had a good sense of what he is and will be doing. Savoy just didn’t catch the criminal neither did the commissioner; Gabriella will wake up finding nothing is, in fact, waiting for her and well Jasmine’s story is quite all right. It certainly does go against the modern tide and drags people away from the system of stereotypes and blindness. I loved everything about the story except for the ending which was just was a little loose for me. And well, if the ending relied on the question “who will succeed in making her/his dreams come true despite all the prefabricated dreams” then it would be Jasmine who placed love over career. But, Igor? He found bliss but it is just a bit weird. Putting all those aside, these are certainly just questions. I am an admirer of your work because they offer powerful insights that doesn’t dwell solely on a magical, Utopian world but a world that is real and changeable. Thank you for writing such good books. More health to you!

  10. Andrew says:

    Dear Mr Coelho,

    I have just finished your book “THE WINNER STANDS ALONE”

    What I don’t understand is that Savoy knew who the killer was and yet made no attempt to arrest him. Why?

    Your books can be life changing and I thank you for the opportunity.

    Kind regards

    Andrew

  11. shankhdhar dubey says:

    thanks for bringing such a wonderful and illuminating book in this world which is already full of darkness
    regards
    s d

  12. Alice says:

    M. Coehlo,

    I just finished your book and I must say you did a wonderful work in writing it. I think that you managed to show us what is hiding behind the cameras, a world that not many imagine because they are so focused on the blitz of the camera and being famous. I know that it is a fiction but I can’t stop thinking that it all real. Everything it is just for show and no substance.
    Vanity is the key word and is affecting everyone, even the people like Savoy and Morris that should know better or they should be more concerned with the people who have died or the ones that are going to die if they don’t do their job. But as the Cannes festival begins no one is safe from the illusion the film industry creates and the fame that it is promised.
    I really like the main character, Igor even though he is set on a path of destruction without giving a second thought to the lives he is destroying; he is unable to see his own mistakes that lead to Ewa leaving him. He, like everyone else in the real world isn’t completely good or completely bad. We all have a dark side and the instinct of self-preservation brings it out. His actions cannot be pardoned but at the same time I was hoping he will see reason. I admire the character for his intellect and his ambition but he presents symptoms of schizophrenia. I don’t know how much he does all this in the name of love or to punish Ewa.
    Ewa is in part responsible for the murders because she knew exactly what the massages meant and she did nothing to stop him; maybe not stop him personally but at least alert the police. But she remained in her little world full of glamour and money and let more people die when she had the power to stop it.
    And in the end you are right, a winner is always alone. The more successful you are the more you will be surrounded by people who want something from you or envy you.
    PS: if this book is turned into a movie it will do it no justice.

  13. Helen says:

    I’m spanish. I love all your books; they have helped me changing the way of viewing and feeling things, so I’m greatful for this. My favourite up to know has been the wich of Portobello. I must say that, specially the end has deeply touched me. How different can be life if you act being honest to yourself!

    Right now I’m halfway reading “The winner stands alone” and, though it’s very different from the others, indeed I think that it teaches you how boring and predictable is the world of the materialist superclass when all the conversations are pretentions and nothing is honest.

    I hope you always keep writing books!

  14. Bahram says:

    Hi Dear Paolo,

    I live in Iran (you was here once), the country of great ancient poets and authors.I’ve read all your books, translated by “Arash Hejazi”.
    Although most of your key phrases and sentences are already in our language and culture, but I love your modern style.
    There is a big “BUT” in your last book and honestly I didn’t like it.Even during reading this book I had the feeling:”this can’t be my Paolo!!!”
    But I adore your previous books and they shine like eternal burning candles in my mind.
    May God give you more power and enlighten your road.

    Bahram

  15. grace says:

    Dear Mr Coelho,
    I just came back from the book shop after purchasing your last book “THE WINNER STANDS ALONE”
    I came home eager to read it like the resat of your books. but what a disappointment; the book is printed in such a small font that it is barely readable.
    I’m a healthy women with proper eyesight and I just can’t read it!!!
    I’m referring to the International edition of the book.
    I know that it’s spoused to be a pocket-book; portable and small. but! people should be able to read it and enjoy it.
    Now the only choice I have is to return the book back to the store and get a refund

    thanks for writing such nice books.
    but someone made the wrong decision saving space be minimizing the font to little black dots on a page.

    hoping to get a response about this latter.

    have a nice and fruitful week.
    Grace.

  16. Iva says:

    Dear Mr Coelho,

    To begin with, it took me extremely great effort and stubbornness to finish reading the book, actually until I read about two-thirds I had to take it and leave it again many times, which does not usually happen. Having in mind the book is an “international best-seller” I had much different expectations and I was astonished that the plot was quite scattered, many of the characters were left undeveloped, the action was uncompleted, and after I closed the book I had the feeling that I was left empty-handed.

    There are many maxims in the book, meaningful and instructive, but first of all, many of them are well-known and, second, as if they make a kind of scaffolding and the actual content and development are just stuffed inside. The concepts of action within 24 hours and many unrelated characters who meet in a given moment later on, are very promising taken together, but the truth is that I was confused in understanding who’s who in the chapter and what mission they have, and exactly at the moment something began, I had to move to a totally different content. After the third murder things start to develop more quickly, more lively and I could focus on a topic.

    Nevertheless, I’d like to make few personal remarks. Why is Igor murdering people AROUND in order to regain one already lost love? There should be made a clear border between sacrifice and murder, whereas these two concepts are quite messed up in the book and could lead to misinterpretation. What I found quite inconsistent is the appearance of the “angel”. Now, many people would say that it is just a book, if you do not understand it – look in a more philosophic way, if you do not see completeness – complete it the way you wish. Has Ewa/Katyusha also changed her name? Probably I have missed something, but normally Katyusha is short from Ekaterina in Russian. Gabriela/Lisa and her one-day stardom could have given “bread” for a whole book itself, though the topic has been used 100 times. Cristina/Jasmine remains for me as one of the undeveloped characters; by the way, the android-like assistant was a good stroke I’d say; HH died for the only pride…

    From “The Winner Stands Alone” I could not learn much for the winners, but I was absorbed in the atmosphere in Cannes and this is what I shall always associate the book with.

    And by the way, as far as I remember from my childhood, Aladdin has a magic lamp, whereas the cave belongs to Ali Baba and the forty thieves (there was a reference in the book).

    Regards,
    Iva

  17. Hombre enamorado says:

    Hi Paulo I am in love with a girl and she means the world to me we dont see each other as often as before however I still love her, she is became so busy that all she thinks about is her career, I am finishing university and I fighting to keep our love alive, have ever gone thru anything like this will you advice me?

  18. Amalia Alvarez, Ph.D. says:

    Why Mr. Coelho dates the end of the book with St.John’s Day 19th of March, 2009…St.Johns Day is the 24th of June…..the 19th of March is St. Joseph Day…is it a mistake or is there something in Brazil that I dont know about….Please clarify…thanks…I enjoyed reading the book….

    1. Paulo Coelho says:

      in fact, it was 19 March. I will check the English Edition

    2. Lia Lopes says:

      As far as I Know ST.John’s day is on June 24Th in Brazil as well. I am Brazilian but have been living in Portugal for ten years, so I’m quit sure about it once both country have high respect for the saint in subject.

    3. Lia Lopes says:

      By the way, let me say what you must have heard countless times: I’m so so so proud of you…

    4. Mukki says:

      Thanks for a wonderful book………….am your big fan…when is your next book coming………

  19. Asmita says:

    hello mr. coelho

    i dnt know exactly what to say after reading winner stands alone…its ur book so of course its ur perception of the world..but i think a winner never stands alone in his life.because a true winner is powerful enough to choose whether he wants to stans alone or not.the winner of ur book is actually a looser who is destined to stand alone.

    Regards

  20. Ria says:

    A great book with a lot of reference to a models life and the page 3 world. Also the beauty lies in the fact that it encompasses one complete day …

  21. Kathrin says:

    Dear Paolo,

    Thank you for your new book!

    Although the topic is very timely, really interesting and very insightful, I feel a bit disturbed and can´t really tell why. I have the impression it´s somehow a bit incomplete.

    That´s why I would like to ask you two questions.

    Firstly, I do understand the constant battle between good and bad and the history of serial killers who have “a higher mission” to fulfill to make the world a better place. Igor doesn´t really fit in this really since he only kills to send a message to one person. He changes his motive during the book and realizes that he also has a higher mission to fulfill, although it´s not clear to me what it is. Ok, he saves the soul of his first victim preventing her from an unhappy future. But apart from that I can´t see the link between his murders and the impact it would have on the Superclass, since nobody sees the connection between the murders anyway (apart from the two police officers). Is he just saving his own soul and becoming free of his obsession? Is this his mission?

    Secondly, in the beginning of the book, you are mentioning 4 main characters, who let themselves being manipulated by the system. But you only names three of them (Igor, Hamid and Gabriela). I am wondering if the fourth one is Jasmine? She is the only one who manages to escape all this before it´s too late. She decides consciously against this life and for her love and is therefore doing the opposite of what Igor did years ago before he destroyed his and his wife´s life.

    All the best,
    Kathrin

  22. Maria Teresa says:

    hi paulo coelho
    i love you as i love all your novels…it really amaze me evrytime i finished your book
    i love eleven minutes
    and BRIDA
    THOSE ARE MY FAVORITES
    BUT ALL YOUR BOOKS I HAVE IT
    AND THE MOST RECENT IS “THE WINNER STANDS ALONE”

  23. Mordechai says:

    Dear Mr Coelho,

    I have just finished reading your fantastic book The Winner Stands Alone (in Hebrew) It has left me feeling very stormy. I have read all of your other books, and must say that this one has a different feeling to it. It walks the line between the demonic and the loving in such a neutral, almost deceitful way. I almost could buy into the reasonings of the murderer for committing his murders, and his being so matter of fact about them. As the writer, you refrained from any superfluous judgment , and let the reader himself find his way through the unfolding of the moral issues. I find that your writing in this book exceeds even your former exceptional creations with its emotional power and perceptional clarity.
    I work in the music industry myself, and could identify with so much of what you have described.
    i wish you all the best, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the wonderful insights you have given me over the years. You have been a wonderful support on my spiritual journey.
    Love and Health from Me.

  24. shirish says:

    Mr. Coelho….I am a great admirer of your work. I have observed that almost in all the works, an attempt to challenge the very existence of love is made…I have this plain and simple question..does love exist in this world? And if so, in what form?? Does it go beyond the boundaries of physical intimacy??

    1. Paulo Coelho says:

      Eros (two people), Philos (wisdom) and Agape ( ultimate love, that does not depend on whether you like a person or not)

    2. Heart says:

      And how would Amor relate to these three concepts?

    3. Marie-Christine says:

      what’s Agape – a gap e
      it’s in the gap in between?
      must need a lot of breathing space then ..:)
      I ‘m ris ing:)ah ah ah

      a mor
      ame or
      a roma
      a rome fait comme les ro mains
      l’ame est d’or

    4. Ceanlia says:

      When I say Good Morning I mean to say:

      G -od O-ffers us His O -utstanding D -evotion to
      M -ake us O-bedient & R-eady for a N -ew day with Him. I -nspire others please, & N -ever forget (I prefer always remember) G-od loves you !

    5. Mr. Coelho,

      I just finished reading your last book..It gives me inspiration as any of your books..I am from Turkey and years ago, while I was reading your book “The Alchemist”, I heard something as you might be inspried “Mesnevi/The Masnavi” by “Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi”(30 September 1207- 17 December 1273) who was the great Anatolian philosopher, poet and the father of the Mevlevi sect. I do not even know If you’ve ever heard his name but this question stucked in my mind for years now..If you do not know him, I want to say that, in every book of yours that I read so far, I saw the same love he was talking about. I do not know as well, If you will read and reply this message..

      The love between Mevlana and Şems-i Tebrizi(who was his student and teacher at the same time), is the love (I think) you underline in every book of yours. This is the website that has some information about him: (Prepared by his great-grandchildren)
      http://www.mevlana.net/resources.htm
      And here is the translation of “Mesnevi” (Of course reading in Turkish is totally different because the meanings are so deep, I do not know If they can translate it in a good way):
      http://www.intratext.com/X/ENG0134.HTM

      As a hobby, I am writing as well since I was 9 years old. You are a light on my way so I hope you answer my message..

      Sincerely

      Sıtare

  25. manaal says:

    I have read half of your book and it is great

  26. watila says:

    THANK YOU PAULO

  27. HIMA KAUL says:

    Dear Mr Paulo

    many many kisses to those fingers that wrote these lines…

    kindly facilitate a ‘hindi’ translation of your books please

    love

    hima

    India

    1. Naveen Meena says:

      Dear HimaJi,

      I have read your book Ghumantu Batuta when I was a kid. I don’t know how to explain what I want to say, but just Google ‘Ghumantu Batuta’ and you will know. After that please do contact me.

  28. Lea says:

    Mr. Coelho,

    ur books are so expensive here(Phil).. (LOL)
    yet im still saving some money to buy one..

    more books to come!!

    Lablab,

    Lea

  29. Bonta Cristiana says:

    Dear Mr.Coelho,
    I’m more than pleased to know that you’ve written another perfect book.I didn’t read it but when it will appear in our bookstores, here in Romania, I will buy it for sure.I’ve read all your books until now and I can say that you are a genius, I just love your stories and I often find myself between the lines. Thank you for beeing such a good writer.
    With love, Cristiana

  30. Aleksandra says:

    Dear mr. Coelho
    I have red the book and I was a bit dispointed with you venture with this book. It strikes me as an attempt to write a script for a film?? I might be wrong, but I prefere books! And if they are made into a films a still expec them to be better than the film.
    Don’t get me wrong, I enyoed your book but not as much as the other books you wrote.
    Sincerely yours!
    Aleksandra Budimir
    Belgrade 08/09/2009