Paulo Coelho’s life may well be itself worthy of a homely book. During his adolescence he was committed three times to a psychiatric hospital by his own parents, who believed that his rebellious attitude was a sign of madness; it was under such parental guidance that he was there subjected to the horrors of electroshock therapy. Once a man, Coelho joined a local version of the hippie movement, most notably meeting rock star Raul Seixas, with whom he collaborated. However, a presence in certain subversive artistic circles first brought him to the attention of the Brazilian dictatorship, which proceeded to imprison and torture him.
The collaboration nonetheless survived the ordeal, and he and Seixas ended up writing about 120 songs together between 1973 and 1982. It was in that final year that Paulo Coelho met his spiritual mentor ‘J’ while traveling in Europe, who convinced him to undertake the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This pilgrimage changed his life forever and turned the misguided hippie man into a spiritually guided writer. Something which he presumably still is today, to the delight of many.
Here is a short list of the books that I loved:
The Alchemist is a psychological novel, or so it would like you to think. Paulo Coelho tells the story of a Spanish shepherd who creates his own personal legend through his Andalusian travels in Egypt. The story propounds the “philosophy” that people only discover themselves when they understand how to listen. But don’t listen to us, listen to the alchemist: ‘Alchemy is the projection in the material world of all spiritual concepts. Not only laboratory work but also that inner, personal chemistry, whose lab becomes our life itself. If we are faithful to what I call the ‘Personal Legend’, the whole world changes and the things we touch will also turn into the philosophical gold.’
The Winner Stands Alone
What is the price of success? Paulo Coelho offers us a mirror of our own society, where the cult of luxury and success makes us deaf to the truths murmured by our hearts… or something. In Cannes we meet those who have succeeded in the worlds of haute couture and cinema: a Russian millionaire, a reputed Middle-Eastern stylist, starlet Gabriela, an ambitious detective, and the model Jasmine. Money, power, and fame are their lives’ aims, and to achieve these they are prepared to do anything.
The Devil and Miss Prym
The eternal conflict between good and evil is revisited in The Devil and Miss Prym. To tell this parable Coelho has transformed the Garden of Eden into a small village in the mountains, dozing in peaceful bliss, and the Fruit of Knowledge into gold bullion. The tempting serpent is an elegant traveller and talker who chooses Chantal Prym, a gorgeous young barmaid, as his mediator. Decorated with biblical simplicity, this fable is discreetly scented with sulfur. Coelho dissects and manipulates his characters like puppets in this world of shadows, where death is not confined to cemeteries but remains closely linked to life. So, are men good or bad? And is God even interested in their fate? The answer can be found in a little more than 200 pages.
Maria is a young Brazilian who works as a sales clerk in a fabric store and gives herself a week’s holiday in Rio de Janeiro. On Copacabana beach, a Swiss man offers her a job as a cabaret dancer in Geneva. She sees this as the beginning of a fairy tale, but reality turns quite different. Maria falls into prostitution, although it is important to note that she does this without shame. For all her adventures, however, sex and love remain enigmas, until finally she meets a young painter, who happens to be as lost as she is. To discover the sacredness of sexuality, Maria must first of all find a way to reconcile with herself. And figure out what that means, exactly.