- See Paulo Coelho's 12 favorite South American books for North Americans in our Grownup School feature.
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What originally inspired you to write The Alchemist?
Coelho: My dream was to be a writer. I wrote my first book in 1987, The Pilgrimage, after completing my own personal pilgrimage from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. After that I thought, “Why did it take me so long to fulfill my dream?” So I decided to write a metaphor, and this metaphor is The Alchemist: a novel about someone who needs to fulfill his or her dream, but takes too long because he or she thinks it’s impossible.
The Alchemist has sold over 150 million copies worldwide, won 115 international prizes and awards, has been translated into 80 languages, and is still on the New York Times bestseller list today, 25 years after its initial publication. What impact has this success had on your life?
Coelho: Of course The Alchemist opened a lot of doors for me. At the moment I’m answering this question, the novel is still on The New York Times bestseller list. But success did not happen overnight, so I had time to get used to it. The book was not something that exploded all of a sudden. I believe success can be a blessing, and it can also be a curse. I was older when the recognition came, so I had another level of maturity to face that change. When it happened, I remember thinking, “My God, this is a blessing. " So above all, I had to respect it. And the way to respect it is to really understand that a blessing has no explanation, but needs to be treasured and honored.
Do you closely relate to any of the characters in The Alchemist? If so, how?
Coelho: In The Alchemist, I relate myself to the Englishman - someone who is trying to understand life through books. It’s quite interesting how many times we use books to understand life. I think that a book is a catalyst: it provokes a reaction. I am a compulsive reader. I read a lot, but from time to time, there are books that changed my life. Well, it’s not that the book itself changed my life; it’s that I was already ready to change, and needed to not feel alone. The same thing happens with the Englishman in The Alchemist.
What have you discovered about your own personal destiny in the past 25 years since writing The Alchemist?
Coelho: What I learned after writing The Alchemist, after the worldwide success, is basically that I had a dream, a Personal Legend to fulfill. To be a writer is to write. To write means new books. New books mean new challenges. Of course, I could have stopped with The Alchemist a long time ago if I was only in it for money, but I really love what I do. I can’t see myself not writing. It’s not always an easy task, sometimes it’s very challenging, but this is what I do and this is what I like. So the journey itself is the miracle; it is the blessing. There is no point to reach. You have to travel your journey with joy, hope, and challenges in your heart.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Coelho: To my readers and my fans, basically my companions, I would say that spirituality is being brave, is taking risks, is daring to do something when people are always telling you not to. My parents, for example, did not want me to be a writer, and that’s why it took so long for me to fulfill my dream. But here I am, thanks to that moment after my pilgrimage from France to Spain, when I said to myself, "I can’t live with a dream that I did not even try to fulfill. " Do the same thing.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I enjoyed the book. Is well written. In some ways a very mystical story. Continues the theme of following you own life journey from the first book, The Pilgrimage. Read morePublished 2 hours ago by james martin
I really enjoyed the read and kept me turning pages. The book was fast and smooth. I will have to read more of his.Published 6 hours ago by Jeffrey C. Simpson
This was a very easy read, I powered through in about 6 of the 8 hours I was on a train trip home. I got the book for a class, but I kept it for a nice future read again. Read morePublished 23 hours ago by wheelman2784
The book was a quick read but very profound. I just finish Ishmall & they went together perfectly. Don't let the title keep you away. I almost was but fortunately I read it anyway. Read morePublished 1 day ago by John Hamilton
an easy read with a good life lesson, i recommend it to young readers! ... older readers too but.. this'll get the kids to love reading, imo!Published 1 day ago by Andrea Lango
On my second reading. Didn't want to miss anything. One of the best I've read . What a meaningful story. GREATPublished 1 day ago by janis engel