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Paulo Coelho ( ; born August 24, 1947) is a Brazilianmarker lyricist and novelist.


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 follow 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 left his dream to become a writer. One year later, he dropped out and lived life as a hippie, traveling through South America, North Africa, Mexicomarker, and Europe and becoming immersed in the drug 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 made 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 took power ten years earlier and viewed his lyrics as left-wing and dangerous.

In 1986, Coelho walked the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostelamarker 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.

Writing career

In 1982 Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives, which failed to make any kind of impact. In 1985 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 Compostelamarker 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 more than 67 languages, winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.

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. He has stated that he only starts writing a book after finding a white feather in the month of January of every odd year. This dates back to The Pilgrimage; while trying to overcome procrastinating 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 26 books. Two of them -- The Pilgrimage and The Valkyries -- 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 100 million books in over 150 countries worldwide, and his works have been translated into 67 languages. He is the all-time bestselling Portuguese language author.

However, within the literary circles of Brazil his books are not well regarded. Many readers and commentators claim that the translations improve the quality of the text, which in the original portuguese is considered by many to be lacking, closer to the self-help genre than to "serious" literature. Despite this, he's a bestseller in his native country as well.


Several of Coelho's books have been adapted into other media.

In 2003, Warner Bros. bought the rights to the film adaptation of The Alchemist. The project stalled and the movie never materialized, reportedly for problems with the script. At the 2008 Cannes Film Festivalmarker, Harvey Weinstein announced that he had bought the rights to the film and will serve as its producer. Laurence Fishburne is set to direct, and to play the eponymous character. The movie will have a reported budget of $60 million. Veronika Decides to Die has also been adapted into a screenplay by Das Films with Muse Productions and Velvet Steamroller Entertainment. The film began shooting on May 12, 2008 with Emily Young directing and Sarah Michelle Gellar starring.

In June 2007, Paulo Coelho announced The Experimental Witch Project, a collaborative project based on The Witch of Portobello. In the book, the life story of the main character, Athena, is told in the form of interviews with 15 characters. Coelho asked aspiring filmmakers to upload their interpretations of one of the narratives to Myspace or YouTube. The winners were awarded 3000€ (4,638 USD) and will have their content edited into a 52-minute TV movie.

Literary criticism

Despite his commercial success, Paulo coelho has been the subject of negative criticism from other authors and literary critics — among them Roberto Bolaño. In an article published in Entre paréntesis, Bolaño writes that Coelho has a poor vocabulary, and says that his merits are the same as Isabel Allende's; he sells books.Bolaño, Roberto. Entre paréntesis, page 102:

La prosa de Coelho, también en lo que respecta a riqueza léxica, de vocabulario, es pobre. ¿Cuales son sus méritos? Los mismos de Isabel Allende. Vende libros.

File Sharing

Paulo Coelho is a strong advocate of spreading his books through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. A fan posted a Russian translation of one of his novels online. Sales of his book jumped from 3,000 to one million in three years, with no additional promotion or publicity from his publishers. Coelho took to pirating his own books on Pirate Coelho which provides free translations of many of his books He was caught by the head of HarperCollins, Jane Friedman, who noticed that one of the unauthorized versions Coelho linked to had notes from his own manuscript. The two reached a compromise: each month a new novel can be read for free on the publisher's website. Due to the openness regarding his content, author Jeff Jarvis named Coelho 'the Googliest author' in his book What Would Google Do.

Personal life

Coelho and his wife of 26 years, Christina Oiticica, split time living in Europe and Rio de Janeiromarker, Brazilmarker. He was raised Catholic and although he attends Mass, he disagrees with the Pope on several issues, both political and social.

In 1996, Coelho founded the Paulo Coelho Institute, which provides aid to children and elderly people with financial problems. In September 2007, Coelho was named a Messenger of Peace to the United Nations.

  • Member of the Board of the Shimon Peres Center for Peace
  • UNESCO special counsellor for “Intercultural Dialogues and Spiritual Convergences”
  • Board Member of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship
  • Member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters
  • Member of the Board, Doha Center of Media Freedom
  • Advisory Board Member, Maybach Foundation


Note: Although the biography section of Coelho's website states that his first book was published in 1982, the Official Fan Club Paulo Coelho website lists two additional books published in 1974: The Manifest of Krig-há and Theater For Education.
Year Portuguese Title English Title
1982 Arquivos do Inferno Hell Archives
1986 O Manual Prático do Vampirismo Practical Manual of Vampirism
1987 O Diário de um Mago The Pilgrimage / The Diary of a Magus
1988 O Alquimista The Alchemist
1990 Brida Brida
1991 O Dom Supremo The Greatest Gift
1992 As Valkírias The Valkyries
1994 Maktub Maktub
Na margem do rio Piedra eu sentei e chorei By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
1996 O Monte Cinco The Fifth Mountain
1997 Letras do amor de um profeta Love Letters from a Prophet
Manual do guerreiro da luz The Manual of the Warrior of Light
1998 Veronika decide morrer Veronika Decides to Die
Palavras essenciais Essential Words
2000 O Demônio e a srta Prym The Devil and Miss Prym
2001 Histórias para pais, filhos e netos Fathers, Sons and Grandsons
2003 Onze Minutos Eleven Minutes
2004 O Gênio e as Rosas The Genie and the Roses
E no sétimo dia And on the Seventh Day (collection of three previously published novels)
2005 O Zahir The Zahir
Caminhos Recolhidos Revived Paths
2006 Ser como um rio que flui Like the Flowing River
A bruxa de Portobello The Witch of Portobello
2007 Vida: Citações selecionadas Life: Selected Quotations
2008 O Vencedor está Só The Winner Stands Alone
O Mago The Wizard (biography by Fernando Morais)


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