Paulo Coelho (born August 24, 1947), is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist. He has become one of the most widely read authors in the world today. He is the recipient of numerous international awards, amongst them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. The Alchemist, his most famous novel, has been translated into 80 languages. The author has sold 150 million copies worldwide.
Paulo Coelho was born in Brazil and attended a Jesuit school. As a teenager, Coelho wanted to become a writer. Upon telling his mother this, she responded with "My dear, your father is an engineer. He's a logical, reasonable man with a very clear vision of the world. Do you actually know what it means to be a writer?" After researching, which was common for him since he was a policy debater when he was in high school, Coelho concluded that a writer "always wears glasses and never combs his hair" and has a "duty and an obligation never to be understood by his own generation," amongst other things. At 16, Coelho's introversion and opposition to following a traditional path led to his parents committing him to a mental institution from which he escaped three times before being released at the age of 20. Coelho later remarked that "It wasn't that they wanted to hurt me, but they didn't know what to do... They did not do that to destroy me, they did that to save me." At his parents' wishes, Coelho enrolled in law school and abandoned his dream of becoming a writer. One year later, he dropped out and lived life as a hippie, traveling through South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe and started using drugs in the 1960s. Upon his return to Brazil, Coelho worked as a songwriter, composing lyrics for Elis Regina, Rita Lee, and Brazilian icon Raul Seixas. Composing with Raul led to Paulo being associated with magic and occultism, due to the content of some songs. In 1974, Coelho was arrested for "subversive" activities by the ruling military government, who had taken power ten years earlier and viewed his lyrics as left-wing and dangerous. Coelho also worked as an actor, journalist, and theatre director before pursuing his writing career.
In 1986, Coelho walked the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, a turning point in his life. On the path, Coelho had a spiritual awakening, which he described autobiographically in The Pilgrimage. In an interview, Coelho stated "In 1986, I was very happy in the things I was doing. I was doing something that gave me food and water – to use the metaphor in "The Alchemist", I was working, I had a person whom I loved, I had money, but I was not fulfilling my dream. My dream was, and still is, to be a writer." Coelho would leave his lucrative career as a songwriter and pursue writing full-time.
In 1982 Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives, which failed to make a substantial impact. In 1986 he contributed to the Practical Manual of Vampirism, although he later tried to take it off the shelves since he considered it “of bad quality." After making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1986, Coelho wrote The Pilgrimage. The following year, Coelho wrote The Alchemist and published it through a small Brazilian publishing house who made an initial print run of 900 copies and decided not to reprint. He subsequently found a bigger publishing house, and with the publication of his next book Brida, The Alchemist became a Brazilian bestseller. The Alchemist has gone on to sell more than 65 million copies, becoming one of the best-selling books in history, and has been translated into 80 different languages, winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.
The Alchemist, easily known as his most successful story, is a story about a young shepherd who follows his spiritual journey to the Egyptian pyramids in search of a treasure.
Since the publication of The Alchemist, Coelho has generally written one novel every two years including By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, The Fifth Mountain, Veronika Decides to Die, The Devil and Miss Prym, Eleven Minutes, Like the Flowing River, The Valkyries and The Witch of Portobello. While trying to overcome his procrastination of launching his writing career, Coelho said, "If I see a white feather today, that is a sign that God is giving me that I have to write a new book." Coelho found a white feather in the window of a shop, and began writing that day.
In total, Coelho has published 30 books. Three of them – The Pilgrimage,The Valkyries and Aleph – are autobiographical, while the majority of the rest are fictional, although rooted in his life experiences. Others, like Maktub and The Manual of the Warrior of Light, are collections of essays, newspaper columns, or selected teachings. In total, Coelho has sold more than 150 million books in over 150 countries worldwide (224 territories), and his works have been translated into 80 languages. He is the all-time bestselling Portuguese language author.
Coelho also writes up to three blog posts a week at his blog.