Paulo Coelho – Quick Facts
Famous as: Novelist, lyricist
Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Birthday: August 24, 1947
Father: Pedro Queima Coelho de Souza
Wife: Christina Oiticica
The Most Admired Inspirational Writer of the 21st Century
Paulo Coelho is one of the most popular spiritual and inspirational authors in the world. The Alchemist is his bestseller, with more than 65 million copies sold. He holds the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author. His books have been translated into 80 different languages.
Early Life of Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho was born in Rio on August 24, 1947, to Pedro Queima, an engineer, and Lygia, a homemaker. He was brought up in a strict Jesuit school. He dreamed up of an artistic career, which his parents opposed. After their failed attempts to suppress Paulo’s ambition to become a writer, they committed the 17 year old Paulo to a mental institution. There he endured sessions of electro convulsive “therapy”. He was released at the age of 20 after three attempts to run away. He became involved with a theatre group and started working as a journalist.
Paulo Coelho was always a radical and unsurprisingly he became excited by the guerrilla and hippy movements took hold in Brazil during the rule of a repressive military regime. He travelled all over Latin America and Europe and started using drugs in the 1960s. Later on, he became active in journalism by launching a magazine called 200. He started composing lyrics for iconic music producer Raul Seixas. This alliance with Raul led Paulo to the world of magic and occultism. In 1973, they both joined the Alternative Society, an organization which stood for the individual’s right to free expression, and began publishing a series of comic strips, calling for more freedom. The next year he was arrested for “subversive” activities by the ruling military government, accusing his lyrics as left-wing and dangerous. This experience affected him thoroughly. Paulo decided to get back to his normal life and begin his writings, but not seriously. Paulo Coelho had an encounter with a stranger, whom he had a vision in his dream. This man directed Paulo to Catholicism again and encouraged him to walk the Road to Santiago, the medieval pilgrim’s path.
In 1987, a year after completing that pilgrimage, Paulo Coelho wrote The Pilgrimage, describing his spiritual awakening. In an interview, Coelho stated, “[In 1986], I was very happy in the things I was doing… 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.”
The making of ‘Paulo Coelho’
Following the publication of The Pilgrimage, Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist which made an initial print run of only 900 copies. The publishing house decided not to reprint. But Paulo would not give up his dream. He found a bigger publishing house, through which Brida was published. Brida received attention and consequently The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage became bestsellers. The huge success of The Alchemist was a turning point in the history of Brazilian literature. The novel is about a young Andalusian shepherd travelling through the world in search of a treasure. An encounter with the alchemist teaches him to “listen to his heart” and the boy finally realizes his dream.
In general, since the publication of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho had written one novel in two years. He has a curious way of start writing a book: he begins writing only if he sees a white feather!! His 30 books have been published, which include autobiographical writings, fictions, essays, newspaper columns and selected teachings. Altogether, Coelho has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide, and his works have been translated into 80 languages. He is the bestselling Portuguese writer ever.
Paulo Coelho’s fans all over the world call his books motivational and life-changing. Critics regard him as a New Age claptrap, which sees spirituality on the basis of vague omens. Coelho sets aside his critiques by saying, “When I write a book I write a book for myself; the reaction is up to the reader. It’s not my business whether people like or dislike it.” He also writes a globally syndicated weekly newspaper and monthly online publication Warrior of the Light On-Line.
Coelho has been married to artist Christina Oiticica, since 1980. They spend half the year in Rio and the other half in a country house in the Pyrenees Mountains of France. In 1996, the couple founded the Paulo Coelho Institute, which provides support and opportunities for deprived children and elderly.
Paulo is the recipient of numerous prominent awards, amongst them the Crystal award by the World Economic Forum and France’s Legion d’Honneur. He is Special Advisor to the UNESCO program “Spiritual Convergences and Intercultural Dialogues”.
Paulo Coelho’s Inspiring Quotes
“Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there.”
“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”