Paulo Coelho, Brazilian spiritual fiction writer, is one of the most successful authors of recent times, selling more than 100 million copies in over 150 countries. Although he is a practicing Catholic, his third book and greatest success, “The Alchemist”, is often being interpreted in the light of New Age thought.
Paulo Coelho was born on August 24, 1947 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His father, Pedro, was an engineer, and his mother Lygia was a housewife.
As a teenager, Paulo wanted to become a writer, but, as it often happens, his parents had very different plans for his future – they wanted him to become engineer, like his father. Paulo’s discovery of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, along with his parents’ intransigence, aroused his spirit of rebellion, and he began to flout the family rules routinely. His father took his introversion and opposition to following a traditional path as a sign of mental illness, so he had his son admitted to a psychiatric hospital when Paulo was 17.
Paulo escaped from it three times before being released at the age of 20. During his time in the asylum, Paulo underwent several sessions of electroconvulsive therapy, but later he stated that his parents didn’t want to hurt him, they just didn’t know what else to do.
After that period, he returned to his studies. His family saw it as a sign that he had accepted the family tradition – but unluckily for them, that period happened to be the sixties. The hippie movement took root even in Brazil, so Paulo wore his hair long, traveled through South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe, and took drugs, wanting to live the hippie experience to the full.
When he returned to Brazil, the Brazilian icon Raul Seixas invited him to write the lyrics to his songs. The first time Paulo had earned a large amount of money was with their second record, which became a huge success and sold more than 500,000 copies. In 1974 he was arrested for his political activism and subjected to torture in prison.
After drifting among several professions (he worked as an actor, journalist, and theater director), Coelho’s life course changed when he visited Spain in 1986. He walked more than 500 miles along the Road to Santiago de Compostela, a site of Catholic pilgrimage; he then experienced a spiritual awakening, which he described two years later in his book The Pilgrimage.
In 1988 he also published The Alchemist, which became a Brazilian bestseller and one of the best selling books in the world. It even won the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author: it’s been translated to 71 languages.
Paulo Coelho has since written many best sellers and is now a renowned author. In 1996, he founded the Paulo Coelho Institute, which provides support to children and the elderly people with financial problems.
He lives with his wife Christina in between Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and in Tarbes, France.
Teachings and philosophy
Coelho’s books are very light reading, especially The Alchemist, a short metaphoric tale about getting where you want to go in life, that he wrote in only two weeks.
He promotes a worldview based on initiative, action, and personal responsibility. Many of these principles are being discussed in The Manual of the Warrior of Light, described as a book of “short notes on accepting failure, embracing life, and rising to your destiny”. In an interview from March 2013 he says: “Accept your contradictions. Learn how to live with them. Because they aren’t curses – they are blessings.” He also affirms the importance of proactive ways of thinking:
Today people aren’t encouraged to take responsibility. It’s easy to obey because you can blame a wrong decision on the person who told you to do this or do that. From the moment you accept that you’re the master of your destiny you have to accept responsibility for every single action of yours. So why bother to follow my dreams? Then I can avoid being a failure – which is not true of course: you are a failure from the moment you don’t allow yourself to be defeated.
The central theme of many of his books is universal: a young person sets out on a spiritual quest, then discovers that his elders are no wiser than he is, and ultimately realizes that the change and the power come from within. In The Alchemist it’s a shepherd boy, in The Witch of Portobello an orphan, in Brida an apprentice witch.
Coelho is in many ways a Law of Attraction author. In The Alchemist, he explicitly says:
Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth. And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
Coelho rejects the self-help label that’s being attached to him: “I am not a self-help writer; I am a self-problem writer”, he says. “When I write a book I write a book for myself; the reaction is up to the reader.” That is what most critics resent in his work – that he’s only interested in his own spiritual awakening. But the fact remains that his books are very well received, and that many people can relate to them in searching for their own Personal Myth.
Coelho is best known by his third book, The Alchemist, although many others are also very well received. His bibliography includes:
- Hell Archives
- The Pilgrimage
- The Alchemist (and The Alchemist, audio version)
- The Greatest Gift
- The Valkyries
- By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
- The Fifth Mountain
- Love Letters from a Prophet
- The Manual of the Warrior of Light
- Veronica Decides to Die
- Essential Words
- The Devil and Miss Prym
- Fathers, Sons and Grandsons
- Eleven Minutes
- The Genie and the Roses
- The Zahir
- Revived Paths
- Like the Flowing River
- The Witch of Portobello
- The Winner Stands Alone
- Manuscript Found in Accra
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.
When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.
Everything tells me that I am about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is just part of life. What does the world want of me? Does it want me to take no risks, to go back to where I came from because I didn’t have the courage to say “yes” to life?
When someone leaves, it’s because someone else is about to arrive.
We have also compiled a list of 50 of Paulo Coelho’s soul touching quotes to make your day 🙂
In this short video of Paulo Coelho talking about luck, coincidence and faith:
- Paulo Coelho’s official website is at www.paulocoelho.com.
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