Biography of Paulo Coelho
Early Life and Career of Paulo Coelho
Born in 1947, Paulo Coelho was raised by strict Catholic parents in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Coelho knew from childhood that he wanted to be a writer, but his parents wanted him to pursue a more traditional and stable career. When Coelho rebelled, his parents committed him to a mental institute three times. Coelho has said he does not blame his parents for what they did, acknowledging that they loved him and did what they thought was best for him. However, Coelho did not want to cast them in a bad light and did not speak or write directly about the experience until his mother passed and his father encouraged him to do so.
After his last release from the psychiatric hospital, Paulo Coelho enrolled in law school to appease his parents. He dropped out after only a year and lived a "hippie" lifestyle, traveling throughout North Africa, Europe, and South America.
When Paulo Coelho returned to Brazil, he worked as a lyricist and songwriter for Raul Seixas, who is often referred to as the "Father of Brazilian Rock." It was around that time that Coelho became involved in witchcraft and the occult. Coelho also worked for a short time as a journalist and was involved in political activism. He was kidnapped and tortured by a paramilitary group in Brazil in the late 1970s.
Paul Coelho moved to Europe in 1980 with Cristina Oiticica, a Brazilian artist who he met the year before and later married. Coelho's career as a novelist launched in 1987, with the publication of The Pilgrimage, an autobiographical story of his travels and self-discovery on the roughly 500-mile Road to Santiago, which leads to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. His next novel, The Alchemist, was published the following year.
Coelho's institutionalized experiences, his subsequent work as a journalist, political activist, and prisoner have shaped his writing, which is autobiographical and storytelling.
Paulo Coelho's Books
Books and novels by Paulo Coelho include:
Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist, his second book, in only two weeks. The novel follows Santiago, a young Spanish shepherd who follows a recurring dream and his flock to seek his treasure in Egypt. Along the way, Santiago is robbed, forced to work for a crystal merchant, joins a caravan crossing the Sahara Desert, falls in love, and meets an alchemist. Consistent themes in the book are following one's Personal Legend or calling, never giving up, and overcoming one's own self-doubt and fear. The main message is that when seeking treasure, it is important to re-examine what one already possesses because as self-awareness increases, one may discover they have had that treasure all along.
In the novel that launched his career, Paulo Coelho tells the story of his travel and self-discovery while seeking his sword on the roughly 500-mile Road to Santiago. The sword is said to represent ancient wisdom. Along the journey, Petrus, his guide, teaches him self-awareness exercises to help Coelho overcome his fear, increase his patience and live in the moment. One of the novel's messages is to "fight the good fight," or overcome one's fears to attain one's purpose in life.
In Brida, Paulo Coelho follows a young Irish woman in her quest to become a master of magic and the spiritual world. The novel contains Coelho's common theme of self-discovery and delves into the search for love, past lives, and finding one's spiritual soulmate.
Veronika Decides to Die
In this novel, Coelho tells the story of a young woman in Slovenia who tries to kill herself with sleeping pills. Unsuccessful, she wakes in a mental hospital. Her psychiatrist tries a bizarre approach to cure her. He tells her the sleeping pills have damaged her heart and she will soon die. No longer worried about what others think of her and feeling that she has nothing to lose, Veronika falls in love and soon realizes that she wants to live more than anything. In the book, Coelho relies on his experiences in the mental institution to examine the meaning of madness, sanity, and whether the insane are those who refuse to follow society's rules or those who make them.
In The Zahir, Paulo Coelho tells the story of an author whose wife, a war correspondent, has disappeared. Unsure whether she was kidnapped or left on her own accord, the author searches for her from Paris to Kazakhstan, meeting one of his wife's friends, who insists she was not abducted. In the novel, Coelho explores what it means for two souls to truly love one another.
Paulo Coelho tells the autobiographical story of his trip through Asia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Along the way, he meets Hilal, a young violinist who Coelho believes he has loved for 500 years. Believing he betrayed her in a past life, Coelho seeks forgiveness from Hilal while at the same time maintaining his faithfulness to his current wife.
In one of the only books featuring his wife, Coelho describes the couple's 40-day trip through the Mojave Desert and their quest to explore the past to make possible the future they desire. Along the way, they meet the Valkyries, a group of fierce warrior women who travel the desert by motorcycle.
In perhaps his most autobiographical tale, Coehlo takes the reader along as he travels from Amsterdam to Kathmandu on the Magic Bus with a group of like-minded hippies in the late 1970s. Early in the story, Coelho befriends a Dutch woman, who he soon discovers wants him to join her on the trip, an invitation which he eventually accepts. The book explores interpersonal relationships, values, and the need to understand and be understood.
In The Archer, Paulo Coehlo introduces the readers to Tetsuya, a retired archer and a boy who he befriends. During the course of their relationship, Tetsuya teaches the boy that a life worth living involves connection and the courage to overcome one's fears and not to be afraid to learn from one's failures.
The Witch of Portobello
According to Coehlo, the novel, which tells the story of Athena, an orphan who seems to have magical powers, is about the balance of feminine and masculine energy. Athena represents Coelho's feminine side. The main themes include accepting not only one another's differences but also one's own.
Paulo Coelho's Short Stories
In addition to his longer novels, Paulo Coelho is a prolific writer who interacts daily with his readers via social media and his blog. Coelho's short stories include
"The Cloud and the Dune"
A story of a young cloud's sacrifice that over time turns a young sand dune into a lush oasis.
"The Meaning of Peace"
In this short story, the king of a peaceful kingdom announces a contest to paint the best picture of peace. When the king chooses the winner, his subjects are horrified and wonder if he has gone mad. But a closer look at the winning painting reveals that when one's heart is filled with joy, peace can be found regardless of what is happening nearby.
Paulo Coelho's Quotes
Paulo Coelho launched his career in 1987, with the publication of The Pilgrimage, an autobiographical story of his travels and self-discovery on the roughly 500-mile Road to Santiago.
Well-known Paulo Coelho quotes include:
"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." Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
"You have two choices, to control your mind or to let your mind control you." Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die
"One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving." Paulo Coelho
"If one day I could get out of here, I would allow myself to be crazy. Everyone is indeed crazy, but the craziest are the ones who don't know they're crazy; they just keep repeating what others tell them to." Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die
Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian novelist whose novels and short stories explore spirituality and self-actualization. Coelho's writing career took off after he wrote about his 500-mile pilgrimage along the Road to Santiago de Compostela. The Alchemist is his best-known novel, which he wrote in just two weeks and has since been translated into more than 80 languages. Overall, Paulo Coelho's books have sold more than 350 million copies, making him one of the best-selling authors to date.