There is a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel—this saying is probably the best way to describe what Paulo Coelho had to go through before reaching the peak of his career as a writer. His life may seem like a series of hardships and miseries, but everything from his experience led to an enlightenment that allowed him to become one of the most celebrated authors in this generation.
Paulo Coelho is of Brazilian nationality, born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1947. He came from a Catholic family background. Being a writer has always been his dream, but his parents, who saw no future in the profession, were totally against it. As a teenager, he was rebellious and a non-conformist, and this led to his parents sending him to a mental health institution, which he even tried to escape three times before being released at the age of 20.
Coelho then pursued law once he got out of institutional care, but he eventually dropped out and decided to live the “hippie” lifestyle in the 1970s. He started to use drugs, and as he searched for himself, he traveled through Mexico, South America, North Africa, and all the way to Europe.
When he went back to Brazil, he became a lyricist, composing songs for a lot of famous Brazilian singers, including Elis Regina, Rita Lee, and the Brazilian icon Raul Seixas. However, his lyrics were mostly considered as “left-wing and dangerous,” and he used them to actively protest the country's military rule. This political activism led him to being jailed three times, and it was reported that he was even subjected to torture while in prison.
Nonetheless, it was when he was 36 years old that he had his spiritual awakening in Spain. His 500-mile walk to Santiago de Compostela, a site of Catholic pilgrimage, was what made the drastic change in his life. It inspired him to write his first novel, The Pilgrimage, where he narrated his experience of the life-changing trek that marked his life’s greatest turnover.
His biggest break came in the form of The Alchemist, published first by a small Brazilian publishing house but was later picked up by HarperCollins in 1994. He wrote The Alchemist in a matter of two weeks, taking advantage of the sudden spurt of creativity and inspiration.
The story of The Alchemist revolves around Santiago, a shepherd boy taking on a journey to realize his “personal legend.” He then proceeds to follow a mysterious trail where he learns to speak the “language of the world” and thus receives his heart's true desire.
The novel has sold over 35 million copies, and it is also known as the most translated book in the world by a living author. Since then, his novels have become inspiration to many, and his readers never get disappointed with his fascinating and mystical ideas.
Other books written by Coelho mostly involve a spiritual quest and a journey into understanding one’s own being for a deeper perspective of humanity. His books are tagged under philosophical and mystical fiction, with other famous titles such as Brida, The Witch of Portabello, and The Spy.
Paulo Coelho has received numerous international awards for his works, and it can’t be denied that his novels have become a worldwide phenomenon. Through his novels, he continues to inspire millions of people from all over the world to live their dreams and follow their own destiny.
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