Paulo Coelho

For the paralympian athlete, see Paulo de Almeida Coelho.
Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho in 2008
Born (1947-08-24) August 24, 1947
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Occupation Novelist
Language Portuguese
Nationality Brazilian
Notable works The Alchemist, Brida
Years active 1982–present
Spouse Christina Oiticica (m. 1980)

Paulo Coelho de Souza (/ˈkwɛljuː/, /kuˈɛl-/, /-j/,[1] Portuguese: [ˈpawlu kuˈeʎu]; born August 24, 1947) is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist. He is the recipient of numerous international awards, amongst them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. His novel The Alchemist has been translated into 80 languages.[2] Coelho has sold over 200 million copies worldwide and is the all-time bestselling Portuguese-language author.[3]

Early life

Paulo Coelho was born in Brazil and attended a Jesuit school. As a teenager, Coelho wanted to become a writer. Upon telling his mother this, she responded, "My dear, your father is an engineer. He's a logical, reasonable man with a very clear vision of the world. Do you actually know what it means to be a writer?" 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.[4][5] Born into a Catholic family, his parents were strict about the religion and faith.[6] 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."[7] 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 using drugs in the 1960s.[8][9] 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.[10] 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.[7] Coelho also worked as an actor, journalist, and theatre director before pursuing his writing career.[10]

In 1986, Coelho walked the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, a turning point in his life.[8][11] On the path, Coelho had a spiritual awakening, which he described autobiographically in The Pilgrimage.[12] 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."[13] Coelho would leave his lucrative career as a songwriter and pursue writing full-time.

Writing career

In 1982, Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives, which failed to make a substantial impact.[10] 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."[10] After making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1986, Coelho wrote The Pilgrimage that was published in the year 1987. The following year, Coelho wrote The Alchemist and published it through a small Brazilian publishing house who made an initial print run of 900 copies and decided not to reprint.[14] He subsequently found a bigger publishing house, and with the publication of his next book Brida, The Alchemist took off. HarperCollins, the biggest publishing House in the United States, decided to publish the book in 1994. Then, it became first a Brazilian bestseller, later a world-wide phenomenon.[14] The Alchemist has gone on to sell more than 83 million copies, becoming one of the best-selling books in history, and has been translated into 67 different languages, winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.[10][15]

The Alchemist, easily known as his most successful book, is a story about a young shepherd who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. The book has inspired a devoted following around the world, with Will Smith, Madonna, and others having declared it to be their favorite novel, and Bill Clinton having been seen with a copy of the book. In 2014, Oprah Winfrey interviewed pop star Pharrell Williams, who stated that The Alchemist had changed his life.[14]

Since the publication of The Alchemist, Coelho has generally written one novel every two years including By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, The Fifth Mountain, Veronika Decides to Die, The Devil and Miss Prym, Eleven Minutes, Like the Flowing River, Brida, The Valkyries, The Winner Stands Alone, The Zahir, The Witch of Portobello, Aleph (novel), Manuscript Found in Accra and Adultery. While trying to overcome his procrastination of launching his writing career, Coelho said, "If I see a white feather today, that is a sign that God is giving me that I have to write a new book." Coelho found a white feather in the window of a shop, and began writing that day.[12]

In total, Coelho has published 30 books. Three of them – The Pilgrimage,The Valkyries and Aleph – are autobiographical, while the majority of the rest are fictional, although rooted in his life experiences.[8] Others, like Maktub, The Manual of the Warrior of Light and Like the Flowing River, are collections of essays, newspaper columns, or selected teachings. In total, Coelho has sold more than 210 million books in over 170 countries worldwide (June 2015 sales figures), and his works have been translated into 80 languages.[9][10]

Coelho writes up to three blog posts a week at his blog,[16] and has over 28.5 million fans on Facebook, and more than 11.1 million followers on Twitter, a higher number than authors such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling.[17] Coelho discussed his relationship with readers through social media platforms with The Wall Street Journal in August 2014.[17]

Não Pare na Pista

The Pilgrim – the Best Story of Paulo Coelho is the international title for the film Não Pare na Pista, a movie about Coelho's life. A co-production between Brazil’s Dama Filmes, led by Carolina Kotscho and Iôna de Macedo, Angélica Huete’s Babel Films in Spain and directed by Daniel Augusto. Ravel and Júlio Andrade play the young and old Coelho, and other cast members include international names such as Fabiana Gugli, Nancho Novo and Paz Vega. Those working on the film include Pedro Almodovar’s regular art director Antxón Gómez and Oscar-winning make-up artists Montse Ribé and David Marti.

De Macedo told Screen: "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 Theaters on 2014, was internationally distributed by Picture Tree on 2015, according to Variety.[18]

Paulo Coelho Foundation

In November 2014, Paulo Coelho finished uploading around 80,000 documents-manuscripts, diaries, photos, reader letters, press clippings-and created a virtual Paulo Coelho Foundation,[19] together with the physical foundation which is based in Geneva.[20]

Personal life

Coelho has been married to his wife, the artist Christina Oiticica, since 1980. Together they had previously spent half the year in Rio de Janeiro and the other half in a country house in the Pyrenees Mountains of France. Coelho and Oiticica now permanently reside in Geneva, Switzerland.[21]

In 1996, Coelho founded the Paulo Coelho Institute, which provides support to children and the elderly. He continues to write, following his own version of The Alchemist's "Language of the World."

Though he was raised in a Catholic family, he left his faith in his 20's. However, he later returned to his faith and is a devout Catholic now.[22] He attends Holy Mass regularly and participates in several charity programmes organized by the Church.[22] Though he accepts the supremacy of the supreme pontiff, the Pope, he is suspicious and often criticises various views of the Church such as the Church's views on gay marriage.[22]


Year Portuguese title English title
1974 O Manifesto de Krig-há The Manifest of Krig-há
1974 Teatro da Educação Theater For Education
1982 Arquivos do Inferno Hell Archives
1986 O Manual Prático do Vampirismo Practical Manual of Vampirism
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 Letras do 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 Padres hijos y nietos Fathers, Sons and Grandsons
2003 Onze Minutos Eleven Minutes
2004 E no sétimo dia And on the Seventh Day (collection of the novels By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, Veronika Decides to Die and The Devil and Miss Prym)
O Gênio e as Rosas The Genie and the Roses
Viages 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


A 2016 Indian Malayalam-language film titled Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho references Coelho's The Alchemist and carries his name in the title.


  1. J C Wells (2008) Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Pearson Education Limited.
  2. "The Alchemist (Coelho) Background". Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  3. "Next Paulo Coelho novel imagines life of Mata Hari".
  4. Schaertl, Markia The Boy from Ipanema: Interview with Paulo Coelho reposted on Paulo Coelho's Blog. December 20, 2007.
  5. Doland, Angela Brazilian author Coelho thrives on contradictions and extremes Oakland Tribune republished on BNet. May 20, 2007.
  6. Hollow Verse, Dot Com (2011-04-12). "Paulo Coelho Bio". Hollow Verse.
  7. 1 2 Day, Elizabeth A mystery even to himself The Daily Telegraph. June 14, 2005.
  8. 1 2 3 An interview with Brazilian writer, Paulo Coelho: Everybody is a Magus Life Positive. July 2000.
  9. 1 2 Life and Letters: The Magus The New Yorker. May 7, 2007.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Biography Official Site of Paulo Coelho.
  11. Teacher's Guide to The Alchemist Harper Collins Publisher.
  12. 1 2 Reiss, Valerie Paulo Coelho Dances with Angels Beliefnet.
  13. Interview with Paulo Coelho BBC World Service Book Club. December 2004.
  14. 1 2 3 A Brief History of the Book Saint Jordi Asociados
  15. Film to be made of Coelho's 'Alchemist AFP. May 19, 2008.
  16. "Paulo Coelho's Blog". 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2011-11-11.
  17. 1 2 Gamerman, Ellen (14 August 2014). "Paulo Coelho, Fiction's Digital Alchemist". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
  18. "Picture Tree Acquires Paulo Coelho Biopic 'The Pilgrim'". PMC. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  19. "Foundation Paulo Coelho & Christina Oiticica".
  20. "Google Maps".
  21. Brasileira, Cultura. "Interview with Paulo Coelho".
  22. 1 2 3 "Paulo Coelho Biography". 2011-04-12. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
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