- 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’ve picked up this 25th Anniversary edition, which is soooo pretty! It even has deckle edges!! AND a new foreword – which I thought was very interesting!
Can you imagine? Read more
Adventure is available to those that are willing. A journey is never far away. Step out in faith and see where your path will take you.
Love this book! Read more
Life-changing and inspiring book! I know this is one I will be reading and rereading for years to come!Published 9 hours ago by Gladys Diaz
It's nice to read a simple story that feeds the soul with hope and affirmations that your personal legend is attainable and that you should always pursue it. Read morePublished 16 hours ago by monica luna
The story was ok, but the ending was a letdown. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
Read a child's fairy tale and be more satisfied.
Very interesting and thought provoking book. Reading it again is definitely on my list of things to do this summer because it offers a lot of opportunites to reflect on life,... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Blue eyes
I'm surprised this book is so well regarded by people. I love little books of wisdom, one of my favorite being "The Richest man in Babylon", but I can say that there's... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Pch Enterprises Inc