Paul Coelho is one of my favorite writers, with the Alchemist & Brida at the top of my list when it comes to his books. His story is a fabulous real world example of the importance of staying true to your dreams.
“Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He 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, 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 17, 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 becoming immersed in thedrug culture of 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 satanism and occultism, due to the content of some songs. In 1974, Coelho was arrested and tortured 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 who 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 any kind of impact. In 1986 he contributed to thePractical 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 Alchemistand 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 30 million copies, becoming one of the best-selling books in history, and has been translated into more than 67 languages, winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.“