Today’s Question by the reader :Futoshi

In your work “The Witch of Portobello”, Athena’s portrait is predicated from the words of the many witnesses. Why did you intended to use this technique?

First this structure was for me a challenge, something that aroused my imagination. While I was writing the book, the main character Athena started to unfold in such an unexpected way thanks to this structure. It was as if I was chasing after her: I had no idea how her story would end but got really excited by the opportunities that aroused from the different perspectives.

At one point in my book, the character of Nabeel Al Ehi teaches Athena the following:

“even a simple letter demands that we put all power into it that we have, as if we were to carve its meaning in hard stone. Thus, when holy scripts find their place on paper, they also include the person’s soul. Because the hand leading the line reflects the soul of the writer.”

In this excerpt, he voices my view on writing. I regard writing as a spiritual activity. It’s the moment, when, in silence, I’m able to talk to myself, to connect to my soul. But you can apply that to any act performed with commitment, humility and love.


  1. Rachel says:

    Paulo, have you seen the movie, Hero (2002) by Zhang Yimou? If not, watch it without reading the synopsis. Calligraphy or writing brings revelation, wisdom and peace.

  2. Kidoris says:

    and so there are holy words from holy souls as well as not holy words from not holy souls? to me every soul is holy. but the hand leading the line does not always reflect the soul.

  3. […] Today’s Question by the reader :Futoshi In your work “The Witch of Portobello”, Athena’s portrait is predicated from the words of… […]

  4. pegarus says:

    The process of writing brings clarity to what you want to express and gets released by your interpretation via your imagination.
    I agree that it comes from your soul, unless you have experienced it you cannot do it justice because it does not ring truth and the reader is able to see through.
    You have a special gift, thank you for sharing it with us. It is very much appreciated and has help me personally to find myself and reconnect to the source.

  5. sheng says:

    Writing is the best medium I found to be able to express myself. I sometimes does'nt mind if my writings are in perfect sentences. I do right them in such a way that what I actually feel. My friend told me that some of writer's written idea is based on what a reader expect from them. So, when he writes something some parts of it are enhanced on what he thinks what the readers want. I got confused, for how could that be, when everything that I write speaks of what is really inside of me. Does it mean that I could not be a good writer, just like what I dream? Does a writer should always consider what other people might think, rather than on his own opinion? On most of your books I found myself to agree with almost every opinions you share, do you consult or consider peoples opinion before writing those books? Are they not merely you own opinions?

  6. Heart says:

    I have noticed a perfectionism in every text you write, each sentence so carefully constructed, they often are fit to quote later. It’s not only the stories you tell, but it is how well and beautiful you create each word and sentence. Myself, I often write ‘sloppy’.

  7. Savita Vega says:

    One of my fvorite books is “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner, wherein he utilizes alternating points of view to tell the story of Addie Bundren (the character who is dying) and her family. Each chapter is the voice of a different character. Some are long, some short. One chapter simply reads: “My mother is a fish.” All in all, it is brilliant!

    I have long been fascinated by the use of this technique, as I find it to be closer to reality as we experiece it than is the so-called omiscient narrator. What is an “omniscient narrator” anyway? It makes no sense really, as the only truly omniscient point of view has to be that of God, which is not what the writer usually intends to convey. As well, we do, as characters in our own lives, wear different faces depending on who we are with; we also play diverse roles throughout the day, and which often change drastically over time. In essence, a personality (the make up of a character) is much more complex than can be conveyed from any singular point of view. Similarly, there is no such thing as any one “truth.” Truth is multiple. Imagine, for example, if we only heard the story of Athena as told in third person, by a single narrator, only one of these observers of her life – how flat, by comparison, the story, as well as the echaracter, would be!

    I am mezmerized by this book, for many reasons, but especially because of the use of multiple perspectives.

    Thank you, Paulo Coelho, for going against the norm and being brave enough to allow this story to unfold as it was meant to be. It is exquisite!

    Savita Vega

  8. lia mara says:

    Wow, that was GREAT!

  9. THELMA says:

    We have as many faces-masks as the people who look at us!! Everyone looks and judges somebody from his/her own perception and perspective.
    We also present ourselves to others in a million ways. Every minute we change, creation is taking place in our minds and souls and our material bodies are in constant metamorphosis. Our lives are the moving paintings of eternity. A book expresses the artist’s soul at a given moment.
    Thank you, Paulo Coelho, for being there, offering us your books and teachings and opening to us your beautiful soul.

  10. El Dormido says:

    The confusion and turmoil that Athena leaves behind in her wake seems rather the invitation for each one to follow and find their own mystery. She poses questions, gives answers without explanation, then disappears to leave all resolution in the hands of each on, even us, the readers. So we are taught to find our own answers through our own questing. That is one of the messages I perceived in this book.

  11. Linnea says:

    Thank you, Paulo Coelho.
    Your writing have helped me through some very hard times. It’s very strange how a man, much older than me, and so far away, could help me as much as you done when I felt lost and sad. Thank you Paulo!