Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist. Paulo Coelho’s life is itself worthy of a book. Before acquiring an international reputation, he had to overcome many hardships. At 17, Coelho’s introversion and opposition to following 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. 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, traveling through South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe and started usingdrugs in 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 led to Coelho being associated with magic and occultism, due to the content of some songs. In 1974, Coelho was arrested for “subversive” activities by the ruling military government, who had taken power ten years earlier and viewed his lyrics as left-wing and dangerous. Coelho also worked as an actor, journalist, and theatre director before pursuing his writing career.
Here is our guide to his essential works :-
The Alchemist follows the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, he decides to meet a Roman fortune-teller in a nearby town to discover its meaning. The woman interprets the dream as a prophecy telling the boy that there is a treasure in the pyramids in Egypt.
Early into his journey, he meets an old king, whose name was Melchizedek, who tells him to sell his sheep to travel to Egypt and introduces the idea of a Personal Legend. Your Personal Legend “is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.” He adds that “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” This is the core theme of the book.
Along the way, the boy meets an Englishman who has come in search of an Alchemist and continues his travels with him. They travel through the Sahara desert and during his journey, Santiago meets and falls in love with a beautiful Arabian woman named Fatima, who resides with her clan near an oasis. He asks Fatima to marry him, but she says she will only marry him after he completes his journey and finds his treasures. He is not happy by this, but later learns that true love will not stop nor plead to sacrifice one’s Personal Legend, and if it does, it is not true love.
The boy then encounters an alchemist who also teaches him about Personal Legends. He says that people want to find only the treasure of their Personal Legends but not the Personal Legend itself. The boy feels unsure about himself as he listens to the alchemist’s teachings. The alchemist states, “Those who don’t understand their Personal Legends will fail to comprehend their teachings.” It is also stated that treasure is more worthy than gold. The main theme that recurs all through the novel, “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realise his dream.”
Eleven Minutes :
Eleven Minutes is a 2003 novel by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho based on the experiences of a young Brazilian prostitute called Maria, whose first innocent brushes with love leave her heartbroken. At a young age, she becomes convinced that she will never find true love, instead believing that “love is a terrible thing that will make you suffer…..”. When a chance meeting in Rio takes her to Geneva, she dreams of finding fame and fortune yet ends up working as a prostitute.
As Maria drifts further away from love, she develops a fascination with sex. But when she meets a handsome young painter she finds she must choose between pursuing a dark path of sexual pleasure for its own sake, or risking everything for the possibility of sacred sex; sex in the context of love.
The Zahir :
The Zahir means ‘the obvious’ or ‘conspicuous’ in Arabic. The story revolves around the life of a bestselling novelist, and in particular his search for his missing wife, Esther. He enjoys all the privileges that money and being a celebrity bring. He is suspected of foul play by both the police and the press, who suspect that he may have had a role in the disappearance of his wife from their Paris home.
As a result of this disappearance, the he is forced to re-examine his own life as well as his marriage. The narrator is unable to figure out what led to Esther’s disappearance. Was she abducted or had she abandoned the marriage? He encounters Mikhail, one of Esther’s friends, during a book launch. He learns from Mikhail that Esther, who had been a war correspondent against the wishes of her husband , had left in a search for peace, as she had trouble living with her husband. The author eventually realises that in order to find Esther he must first find his own self. Mikhail introduces him to his own beliefs and customs, his mission of spreading love by holding sessions in hotels and meeting homeless people living in the streets. He tells the narrator about the voices he hears, and his beliefs related to them. The narrator, who only too frequently falls in love with women, consults with his current lover, Marie, about his encounters with Mikhail. She warns him that Mikhail could be an epileptic. However, she also advises him to search for the Zahir as is his desire, even though she would prefer him to stay with her.
The narrator eventually decides to go in search of his Zahir. As it was Esther who had initially brought Mikhail from Kazakhstan to France, the protagonist suspects that she may in fact be in Kazakhstan. At first, he is curious about what made Esther leave, but later he realises that troubles with her relationship with her husband may have been a major reason. As he discovers, she was interested in getting to know herself through the making of carpets. Eventually the narrator meets his Zahir and the outcome of this meeting constitutes the climax of the book. Through the narrator’s journey from Paris to Kazakhstan, Coelho explores the various meanings of love and life.
In a recurring theme in the book, Coelho compares marriage with a set of railway tracks which stay together forever but fail to come any closer. The novel is a journey from a stagnant marriage and love to the realisation of unseen but ever increasing attraction between two souls.
Veronika Decides to Die :
Veronika is a beautiful young woman from Ljubljana, Slovenia who appears to have the perfect life, but nevertheless decides to die (commit suicide) by overdosing with sleeping pills. While she waits to die, she decides to read a magazine.
After seeing an article in the magazine which wittily asks “Where is Slovenia?”, she decides to write a letter to the press justifying her suicide, the idea being to make the press believe that she has killed herself because people don’t even know where Slovenia is. Her plan fails and she wakes up in Villete, a mental hospital in Slovenia, where she is told she has only a few days to live.
Her presence there affects all of the mental hospital’s patients, especially Zedka, who has clinical depression; Mari, who suffers from panic attacks; and Eduard, who hasschizophrenia, and with whom Veronika falls in love. During her internment in Villete she realises that she has nothing to lose and can therefore do what she wants, say what she wants and be who she wants without having to worry about what others think of her; as a mental patient, she is unlikely to be criticised. Because of this new-found freedom Veronika experiences all the things she never allowed herself to experience, including hatred and love.
In the meantime, Villete’s head psychiatrist, Dr. Igor, attempts a fascinating but provocative experiment: can you “shock” someone into wanting to live by convincing her that death is imminent? Like a doctor applying defibrillator paddles to a heart attack victim, Dr. Igor’s “prognosis” jump-starts Veronika’s new appreciation of the world around her.
It is the story of a beautiful young Irish girl and her quest for knowledge. She finds a hermit mage who teaches her to overcome fear and a witch who teaches her how to dance to the hidden music of the world. They see in her a gift, but must let her make her own voyage of discovery. As Brida seeks her destiny, she struggles to find a balance between her relationships and her desire to transform herself. The story is neatly woven around marrying the ancient art of witchcraft to contemporary life.
The pilgrimage :
The story begins in 1986 when Coelho undertakes his initiation into the order Regnus Agnus Mundi (RAM), which he subsequently fails. He is then told that he must embark on a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago (a.k.a. Way of St. James) to find the sword that is the symbol of his acceptance into the ranks of RAM. He must do this to gain insight into the simplicity of life. The journey transforms him as he learns to understand the nature of truth through the simplicity of life.
He begins his journey with a guide, also a member of RAM, who goes by the alias Petrus. During the journey Petrus shows him meditation exercises and introduces him to some of the more down-to-earth elements of Western mystical thought and philosophy, and teaches him about love and its forms: agape, philia and eros.
It is the fourteenth major book by Coelho, and touches on the theme of spirituality. Aleph was written in Coelho’s native language, Portuguese. Under the sentence “Some books are read. Aleph is lived”, the book is an autobiographical account written in a novel format
When the writer feels that his attempts are not properly being requited with the results he desired, he starts to have doubts about the path he is following and about the things he is doing. Then, as his master J. says, he starts trying to become the “King of [his] Kingdom”. The master J. tells him that what the writer is feeling is what he himself had felt some years back. That way, the writer is convinced that what he is in is a phase he cannot withdraw himself from and then he goes to travel. The writer persuades his agent, and then makes out a way to visit Russia for his tour, on the pretext of signing books and holding various programmes for the promotion of his books in the northern Eurasian parts. In Russia, he comes across a girl, Hilal, who happens to be a Turk. She talks about her dream about a friend with a light and so does the story develops. Hilal also joins the writer in his carriage in the train. Then, in a vestibule, the two of them, the writer and Hilal see Aleph, which is defined as “a point where everything, the whole universe is contained”.
The Winner Stands Alone :
The book loosely tells the story of several individuals: Igor, a Russian millionaire; Hamid, a Middle Eastern fashion magnate; American actress Gabriela, eager to land a leading role; ambitious criminal detective Savoy, hoping to resolve the case of his life; and Jasmine, a woman on the brink of a successful modeling career. Set at the Cannes Film Festival, the tale narrates the epic drama and tension between the characters in a 24-hour period. Igor, a man of extraordinary intelligence, has promised himself to destroy worlds to get his beloved wife Ewa, who left him for a successful designer, Hamid.
The Witch of Portobello :
The Witch of Portobello is a fiction work about a woman born in Transylvania to a Roman mother in a gypsy tribe without wedlock. The central character is abandoned by her birth mother because the father was a foreigner and later adopted by a wealthy Lebanese couple.
By the river Piedra I sat down and wept :
The story focuses on Pilar, an independent young woman, who is frustrated with the grind of university life and looking for greater meaning. Pilar’s life takes a turn when she meets up with a childhood sweetheart, who is now a spiritual teacher and a rumoured healer and miracle worker. They set off on a journey through the French Pyrenees as the journey unfolds.