The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho

Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho (Paulo Coelho – Wikipedia) offered this tale about fear, temptation and responsibility in 2000. The fable is about a man who sets out on a journey to discover the true face of humankind.

Viscos is a small village located in France. It has only 281 inhabitants. In the past, the place was crawling with thieves, prostitutes and criminals. Now, Viscos is peaceful. Chantal Prym is the young bartender in the village, and dreams of leaving. Now meet old Berta. Still talking to her dead husband, she can see the devil, can read emotions and can read the signs of trouble in storms. Berta sits still outside her house and watches.

One day, a stranger enters Viscos. He tells Chantal that he is seeking to know whether people are essentially good or wicked. He offers gold to the village if they will commit murder. Chantal must carry the message to the people and she is very sure that they will refuse to kill. Instead they decide to do away with Berta. They use sedatives and drag Berta into the woods so they can shoot her. Chantal pleads that this action will prove that the people are evil. She reveals the stranger’s plan and they decide to return home and refuse the gold. But the temptation has not ended for Chantal….

Are humans essentially good or wicked?

224 pages in Harper Collins

First published 2000

ISBN 978-0007116058

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Paulo Coelho

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