The Alchemist has been on The New York Times' bestseller's list for seven years. Written in 1988, it is the most read Brazilian book in the world, selling over 15 million copies only in the United States and over 65 million copies around the globe, and has been translated to 80 languages. The former US president Bill Clinton has been photographed reading it and pop star Madonna once told during an interview that that was her bedside book.
The book tells the story of a young man called Santiago that, after experiencing a frequently repeated dream he understood as a prophecy, decides to leave his home in Spain and travel to Egypt as, according to that dream, he should find a lost treasure by the Egyptian pyramids. During his journey, he begins an unpredictable search for knowledge and clarification about the biggest human mysteries, unresolved since the beginning of times.
Paulo Coelho, the writer behind the story, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947 in a wealthy family. Attended one of the best private schools in the city, where developed his taste in writing. He used to attend poetry and theatre competitions, despite his parents’ demands. This lead to a turbulent relation between them and ultimately caused Paulo to suffer from depression and anger managements problems.
In the 1960's, already an independent adult, he finally joined a theater group and worked as an actor and director. It wasn’t until the next decade, when Paulo became a part of the hippie movement, that he started writing articles for independent magazines as a professional journalist. He was then introduced to drugs and occult sciences, facts that will influence his entire career as a best-selling author. It was also then when he met Raul Seixas, who would become the most expressive artist in Brazil representing the hippie movement. Not only a friendship with them started, they also became business partners and wrote several songs that are widely known up to this date.
His relation with the occult sciences are the strongest feature of all his literary work. He considers himself a magus and follows the Law of Thelema, a philosophical law developed in the 1900's that preaches: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will." Later, he joined the Order of A∴A∴, which gathers concepts and practices from the Theravada Buddhism, Vedantic yoga and ceremonial magic. It applies what it describes as mystical and magical methods of spiritual attainment under the structure of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, and aims to research, practice, and teach "scientific illuminism".
Paulo Coelho's first book, Arquivos do Inferno (Archives from Hell) was released in 1982 and did not achieve the expected success. His second book, called O Manual Prático do Vampirismo (The Practical Manual of Vampirism), was launched in 1985 but the author himself required that it was recalled as he considered to be very poor quality. In 1987, he released O Diário de um Mago (The Diary of a Magus), partially based on his experience walking through Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, a famous destination for Cristian travelers all over the world.
In 1988 O Alquimista (The Archemist) was published but it wasn’t until the early 1990's that it became successful. It has set the world record for the most translated book – with over 80 languages – from a living writer. The book received the best critiques from the main newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times and The Advertiser.
Over the following years, Paulo Coelho has released several bestselling books: Brida, in 1990; Maktub, also in 1994; O Monte Cinco (The Fifth Mountain), in 1996; Veronika Decide Morrer (Veronika Decides to Die), in 1998; O Demônio e a Srtª Prym in 2000 (The Devil and Ms. Prym); Onze Minutos (Eleven Minutes), in 2003; O Zahir (The Zahir), in 2005; Manuscrito Encontrado em Accra (Manuscript Found in Accra), in 2012; amongst other.
In 2003, the gigantic Warner Bros. bought the rights to the film adaptation of The Alchemist. Laurence Fishbourne, famous for his role as Morpheus in The Matrix series and a self-proclaimed fan of Paulo Coelho’s work, will direct the film adaptation. Actor Idris Elba, who played Nelson Mandela in the 2013 biographical film Mandela: Long Way to Freedom, will perform as the main character.
Paulo Coelho has been living in Genebra, Switzerland, with his wife since 2007 and rarely appears in public for social events, festivals or interviews. He considers himself to be a hermit, and sais all he needs if a good book, a good movie, and a good optic fiber connection. He spend his days walking around with his wife and discovering new and exciting places.
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