Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, will publish a new novel based on the life of courtesan and accused spy Mata Hari with Alfred A. Knopf. “Mata Hari was one of our first feminists,” Coelho says in the release, “defying expectations of that time and choosing instead an independent, unconventional life. There are lessons we can draw from her life today, where accusations by the powerful still cost the innocent their lives.”
The Spy will chronicle Mata Hari’s story, from her past as a dancer during World War I, where she “became a confidant to some of the era’s richest and most powerful men.” She was eventually executed in Paris — but as she spent her last days in a French prison, one of her final requests was for a pen and paper to write letters. It’s these letters that provided Coelho with The Spy’s structure: It will be told in the form of her final letter, written one week before her execution.
Knopf notes that during the past two decades, Germany, Holland, and the U.K.’s MI5 have released their files on Mata Hari, which aided Coelho immensely in his research. “I ended up with a mountain of documents,” Coelho says in the release, “but also with a question: What did Mata Hari write in those letters? And how was she caught in so many traps, set by both friends and enemies?”
The Spy will be released Nov. 22, 2016.