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Paulo Coelho

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Paulo Coelho
Coelho in June 2024
Coelho in June 2024
BornPaulo Coelho de Souza
(1947-08-24) 24 August 1947 (age 76)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Lyricist
  • writer
GenreDrama, romance
Years active1974–present
Notable worksThe Alchemist
(m. 1980)

Paulo Coelho de Souza (/ˈkwɛl.j, kuˈɛl.j, -j/ KWEL-yoo, koo-EL-yoo, -⁠yoh,[1] Portuguese: [ˈpawlu koˈeʎu]; born 24 August 1947) is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters since 2002.[2] His 1988 novel The Alchemist was an international best-seller.


Paulo Coelho was born on 24 August 1947 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and attended a Jesuit school. At age 17, Coelho's parents committed him to a mental institution from which he escaped three times before being released at the age of 20.[3][4] 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."[5] 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, travelling through South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe and started using drugs in the 1960s.[6][7]

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 Coelho being associated with magic and occultism, due to the content of some songs.[8] He is often accused that these songs were rip-offs of foreign songs not well known in Brazil at the time.[9] In 1974, by his account, he was arrested for "subversive" activities and tortured[10][11] by the ruling military government, who had taken power ten years earlier and viewed his lyrics as left-wing and dangerous.[5] Coelho also worked as an actor, journalist and theatre director before pursuing his writing career.[8]

Coelho married artist Christina Oiticica in 1980. Together they had previously spent half the year in Rio de Janeiro and the other half in a French country house in the Pyrenees, but now the couple resides permanently in Geneva, Switzerland.[12]

In 1986 Coelho walked the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.[6][13] On the path, he had a spiritual awakening, which he described autobiographically in The Pilgrimage.[14] 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 whom I loved, I had money, but I was not fulfilling my dream. My dream was, and still is, to be a writer."[15] Coelho would leave his lucrative career as a songwriter and pursue writing full-time.

The Pilgrim – Story of Paulo Coelho is the international title for the biographical film Não Pare na Pista, a co-production between Brazil’s Drama Films and the Spanish Babel Films, in which the younger and older Coelho are played by two different actors. One of the producers, Iôna de Macêdo, told Screen International: "The film tells the story of a man who has a dream. It's a little like Alice in Wonderland – he's someone who is too big for his house." The film, shot in Portuguese, had its premiere in Brazilian theatres in 2014 and was internationally distributed in 2015.[16]


In 1982, Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives, which failed to make a substantial impact.[8] In 1986 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."[8] After making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1986, Coelho wrote The Pilgrimage, published in 1987.

While trying to overcome his procrastination about launching his writing career, Coelho decided, "If I see a white feather today, that is a sign that God is giving me that I have to write a new book." Seeing one in the window of a shop, he began writing that day.[14] The following year, Coelho wrote The Alchemist and published it through a small Brazilian publishing house that made an initial print run of 900 copies and decided not to reprint it.[17] He subsequently found a bigger publishing house, and with the publication of his next book Brida, The Alchemist took off. HarperCollins decided to publish the book in 1994. Later it became an international bestseller.[17] In a 2009 interview with the Syrian Forward Magazine, Coelho stated that the Sufi tradition had been an influence on him, particularly when writing The Alchemist and later The Zahir.[18]

Since the publication of The Alchemist, Coelho has generally written at least one novel every two years. Four of them – The Pilgrimage, Hippie, The Valkyries and Aleph – are autobiographical, while the majority of the rest are broadly fictional.[6] Other books, like Maktub, The Manual of the Warrior of Light and Like the Flowing River, are collections of essays, newspaper columns, or selected teachings. His work has been published in more than 170 countries and translated into eighty-three languages. Together, his books have sold 320 million copies.[19] On 22 December 2016, Coelho was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 2 in the list of 200 most influential contemporary authors.[20]

However, reactions to his writing have not been without dissension. Though he was raised in a Catholic family and describes himself as of that faith even now, his stance has been described as incompatible with the Catholic faith, because of its New Age, pantheist and relativist contents.[21] And whatever his sales, reviews of Coelho's later work consistently note its superficiality.[22][23][24]

In 2016, he was contacted by basketball player Kobe Bryant, who wanted to discuss a children's book project with him. Some months before Bryant's death in a helicopter crash in January 2020, they started to write the book together, but upon hearing about his death, Coelho deleted the draft, saying in an interview that "it didn't make any sense to publish without him." He did not say how many pages had been written or whether the book had a title.[25][26]


Year Portuguese title English title
1974 Teatro da Educação Theater For Education
1982 Arquivos do Inferno Hell Archives
1987 O Diário de um Mago The Pilgrimage
1988 O Alquimista The Alchemist
1990 Brida Brida
1991 O Dom Supremo The Supreme 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 Cartas de Amor de um Profeta Love Letters from a Prophet
Manual do Guerreiro da Luz 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 Historias 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
Viagens Journeys
Vida Life
2005 O Zahir The Zahir
Caminhos Recolhidos Revived Paths
2006 Ser Como o Rio que Flui Like the Flowing River
A Bruxa de Portobello The Witch of Portobello
2008 O Vencedor Está Só The Winner Stands Alone
2009 Amor Love
2010 Aleph Aleph
2011 Fábulas
2012 Manuscrito Encontrado em Accra Manuscript Found in Accra
2014 Adultério Adultery
2016 A Espiã The Spy
2018 Hippie Hippie
2020 O Caminho do Arco The Archer


  1. ^ J C Wells (2008) Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Pearson Education Limited.
  2. ^ Academia Brasileira de Letras (4 November 2014). "Paulo Coelho – Biografia".
  3. ^ Schaertl, Markia The Boy from Ipanema: Interview with Paulo Coelho reposted on Paulo Coelho's Blog. 20 December 2007.
  4. ^ Doland, Angela Brazilian author Coelho thrives on contradictions and extremes Oakland Tribune published on The Washington Post. 12 May 2007.
  5. ^ a b Day, Elizabeth A mystery even to himself The Daily Telegraph. 14 June 2005.
  6. ^ a b c An interview with Brazilian writer, Paulo Coelho: Everybody is a Magus Archived 9 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine Life Positive. July 2000.
  7. ^ Life and Letters: The Magus The New Yorker. 7 May 2007.
  8. ^ a b c d Biography Archived 15 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine Official Site of Paulo Coelho.
  9. ^ "Cópia Infiel: Ato 1, Raul Seixas e o Dolo de Ouro". whiplash.net (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  10. ^ The Washington Post (29 March 2019). "I was tortured by Brazil's dictatorship. Is that what Bolsonaro wants to celebrate?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  11. ^ Coelho, Paulo (30 March 2019). "28/5/1974". Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  12. ^ Brasileira, Cultura. "Interview with Paulo Coelho". Archived from the original on June 12, 2016.
  13. ^ Teacher's Guide to The Alchemist Archived 27 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine Harper Collins Publisher.
  14. ^ a b Reiss, Valerie Paulo Coelho Dances with Angels Beliefnet.
  15. ^ Interview with Paulo Coelho BBC World Service Book Club. December 2004.
  16. ^ "Picture Tree Acquires Paulo Coelho Biopic 'The Pilgrim'". PMC. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  17. ^ a b A Brief History of the Book Archived 2 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine Saint Jordi Asociados
  18. ^ "Forward Magazine". Fwmagazine. 12 April 2009. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  19. ^ Karen Heller, Meet the writers who still sell millions of books. Actually, hundreds of millions, The Washington Post
  20. ^ "Authors Top 200: From J.K. Rowling to T. Harv Eker, These Are the Most Influential Authors in the World". Richtopia. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  21. ^ Santamaría, Luis (23 July 2014). "Paulo Coelho: ¿alguna objeción desde la fe cristiana?" [Paulo Coelho: any objection from the Christian faith?]. Aleteia (in Spanish). Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  22. ^ "Adam Mars-Jones finds Paulo Coelho hurtling towards stupidity as he reaches for wisdom in The Zahir", The Observer, 19 June 2005
  23. ^ Rebecca K. Morrison, "New novels fails to stimulate", The Independent, 14 September 2014
  24. ^ Cameron Woodhead, "Paulo Coelho's fictional take on Mata Hari misses the mark", The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 January 2017
  25. ^ Co-Author of Kobe Bryant Children's Book Deletes Unfinished Draft
  26. ^ "Author deletes children's book co-written with Kobe Bryant". Associated Press. 27 January 2020. Retrieved 28 January 2020.

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