Archives for March 2010

Quote of the Week

There is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.

My Beatles moment

To lead a better life,
I need my love to be here.

Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there’s something there.

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking but she doesn’t know he’s there.

I want her everywhere
and if she’s beside me I know I need never care.
But to love her is to need her

Everywhere, knowing that love is to share
each one believing that love never dies
watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there.

I want her everywhere
and if she’s beside me I know I need never care.
But to love her is to need her.

Everywhere, knowing that love is to share
each one believing that love never dies
watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there.

I will be there, and everywhere.
Here, there and everywhere.

Because the world is round it turns me on
Because the world is round.

Because the wind is high it blows my mind
Because the wind is high

Love is all, love is new
Love is all, love is you

Because the sky is blue, it makes me cry
Because the sky is blue….

No mosteiro de Melk

Paulo Coelho

Este ano minha Festa de Sí£o José foi realizada na Abadia de Melk, Austria (veja oraí§í£o coletiva no final da página). Ali tive mais uma vez a oportunidade de encontrar um dos meus grandes mentores espirituais, abade Burkhard. Ní£o falamos nenhuma lí­ngua comum, mas sua presení§a me transmite ní£o apenas paz, mas uma espécie de compreensí£o especial do sentido da vida. Em 2006, dei uma entrevista para a revista News, onde dizia que Burkhard era o meu silencioso mentor, ao mesmo tempo em que alertava que ele ní£o gostaria de ser chamado assim. Evidente que eu tinha razí£o: em um artigo carinhoso, ele refuta o tí­tulo, mas mostra mais uma vez sua sabedoria. A seguir, trechos de suas reflexíµes neste mesmo artigo

Em busca do sentido

Em um dos nossos encontros nos poríµes da abadia, (Coelho) perguntou quais seriam os passos corretos a serem dados por um homem. Claro que existem muitas coisas erradas no mundo, capazes de trazer destruií§í£o e arrependimento. Existem outras coisas que seriam capazes de compensar tudo isso, mas nem sempre sí£o possí­veis, e ní£o entendemos por quíª.

Mesmo as pessoas que ní£o tíªm fé conhecem a situaí§í£o do mundo. Este reconhecimento permite que sejamos capazes de mover rochas, se tivermos vontade, e acender de novo todas as luzes que foram apagadas.

Quando entrei na Ordem Beneditina, eu tinha algumas pequenas razíµes para tomar tal decisí£o. Pouco a pouco, comecei a percorrer meu caminho, a me identificar com ele, ao mesmo tempo em que ní£o conseguia entender bem tudo que se passava í  minha volta. Cada vez que eu dava uma sugestí£o a respeito de algo que precisava ser mudado, ouvia a resposta:

““O que vocíª quer exatamente? Este mosteiro foi educado para pensar em termos de séculos, ní£o de mudaní§as imediatas”.”

Este comentário ní£o me ajudava, e eu me sentia distante de todos os ideais que trazia dentro de mim.

Finalmente, uma conversa com um velho monge mudou por completo minha visí£o do assunto. Quando lhe comentei meu problema, me respondeu:

“”Vocíª fica chateado que aqui pensamos em termos de séculos? Perfeito, entí£o esqueí§a isso, e faí§a o que achar melhor, na velocidade que julgar conveniente”.”

Na mesma hora eu me dei conta que todas as minhas grandes transformaí§íµes interiores andavam devagar, e a presení§a Dele em minha alma surgindo gradualmente. Ní£o no plano de minha consciíªncia, e sim em um lugar mais profundo, mais denso, onde as coisas ní£o se deixam abalar tí£o facilmente.

Para isso, é necessário que a pessoa possa experimentar caminhos errados, atalhos que ní£o deviam ser percorridos; pouco a pouco, através justamente destes altos e baixos de nossas vidas é que comeí§amos a nos dar conta do que é certo. E sentimos uma imensa liberdade para seguir adiante.

É necessário aprender a viver com a energia que vem do nosso interior, e que nos mantém passionais e entusiasmados com que fazemos. Ao invés de buscar nas grandes coisas as respostas que necessitamos, basta prestar atení§í£o nos pequenos detalhes que passam despercebidos. Como qualquer crianí§a. “Eu agradeí§o, ó Pai, Senhor do Céu e da Terra, porque escondeste estas coisas dos sábios e dos eruditos, e revelastes í s crianí§as” (Mateus, 11:25).

É assim que nos damos conta da nossa transformaí§í£o. Quando o indiví­duo entende que pode mudar pequenas coisas, retoma o sentido de sua vida, deixa de ter pressa porque está concentrado no próximo passo.

E quanto mais mudamos no pequeno, mais o grande é transformado.

Prayers to St. Joseph, Melk 2010

(the beginning the camera is moving, but on 0:44 it becomes still. Thanks Suzana Linhares for the video). Thanks my friends and readers for this moment in Melk.

Quote of the Week

I believe that when we look for love courageously, it reveals itself, and we attract even more love. If one person really wants us, everyone does. But if we’re alone, we become even more alone. Life is strange…

My new book

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2006 Free copyright. To see this photo in a better resolution, click here

This is the first time I wrote a book in public (I mean, I wrote in private, but it was like many eyes were on me, because I was doing daily updates in Twitter about my emotional status while writing). I finished this Thursday, 11 March, at 2:00 AM.

In 2006 I was called to my 3rd sacred pilgrimage.

The first one, the Road to Santiago (1986) takes place in space , meaning that you have to cover a physical distance between two points. In my case, I walked from the border of France to O Cebreiro (Galicia), close to 600 kms. I wrote a book about it, “The pilgrimage”.

The second was in 1989, called Road to Rome, takes place in time. It is not a journey to Rome, but I needed to choose a place (in this case, the French Pyrenees) to stay for 70 days. I had to dream and follow the dream the next day, regardless how absurd it was (I remember dreaming with a bus stations, and I spent 3 hrs the next day in a bus station). It deals with the Feminine Energy, and I wrote “Brida” and “By the river Piedra I sat down and wept” while seeing my feminine side manifesting itself.

The 3rd sacred road Is called Road to Jerusalem. Again, you don’t need to go to Jerusalem, but you have to travel in space and time. The only task I was given was: stay away from home for the next 4 months.
I went to several countries, but the epiphany happened while crossing Asia in the Transiberian train ( 15 days, 7 different time zones, 9.2528 kms from Moscow to Vladivostok). I was travelling with a Turkish girl, Hilal (not her real name), for reasons that you are going to discover in the book. This point where time and space converge is called “The Aleph”(J.L.Borges has a wonderful short story about this point) . Therefore, this is the title of my new book: “The Aleph”.

Why did I take so long to write about this pilgrimage? Because it took me three full years to understand it.
It is not a travel guide. Of course I describe what does it mean such a long trip in a train, but the main goal is the long trip to my soul, past, present and future.

My friends in Facebook and Twitter are the first to know, besides a note today in Radar (Veja magazine)
The book will be released in Brasil very soon, and in the rest of the world in 2011. I wish it could be this year (a writer wants to see his/her soul unveiled the next day), but the publishing houses have a different schedule.

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PORTUGUES

Essa foi a primeira vez que escrevi um livro em publico (quer dizer, escrevi comigo mesmo, mas todo mundo sabia que eu estava escrevendo, porque fazia updates diarios no Twitter sobre meu estado emocional). Terminei nesta quinta, dia 11 de marí§o, as 2:00 AM.

Em 2006 eu fui chamado para fazer minha terceira peregrinaí§í£o sagrada.

A primeira foi O Caminho de Santiago (1986), uma viagem no espaí§o fí­sico, cobrindo a distí¢ncia entre dois pontos. No meu caso, andei da fronteira da Franí§a até O Cebreiro (Galí­cia), e foi tema do meu primeiro livro, “O diario de um mago”.

A segunda foi em 1989, é chamado Caminho de Roma, e se passa no tempo. Ní£o era uma viagem para Roma: eu precisava escolher um lugar e ficar ali durante 70 dias. Escolhi os Pirineus. Tudo que precisava fazer era sonhar, e no dia seguinte transformar o sonho em algo real. Lembro-me de uma noite que sonhei com uma estaí§í£o de í´nibus, e fiquei 3 horas em uma. O caminho de Roma lida com a Energia Feminina; escrevi “Brida” e “Na margem do rio Piedra eu sentei e chorei” logo depois, enquanto essa energia despertava em mim.

A terceira peregrinaí§í£o sagrada é chamada de O Caminho de Jerusalem. De novo, nao é necessário ir a Jerusalem, mas precisava viajar no espaí§o e tempo. A única tarefa que me foi dada: fique fora de casa durante 4 meses.
Visitei vários paises, mas a revelaí§í£o aconteceu enquanto eu cruzava a Asia no trem Transiberiano (15 dias, 7 fusos horários diferentes, 9.258 kms entre Moscou e Vladivostok). Estava viajando com uma jovem turca, Hilal (nome falso) por razíµes que vocíªs irí£o descobrir no livro. O ponto onde o tempo e o espaí§o se encontram é chamado na tradií§ao mágica de “Aleph” (J.L. Borges tem uma maravilhosa historia sobre este ponto) . Portanto, o tí­tulo do meu novo livro é “O Aleph”.

Ní£o é um guia de viagem (assim como “O diario de um mago” tampouco foi). Claro que explico um pouco o que é a longa viagem de trem, mas apenas para localizar o leitor. O livro é minha viagem ao encontro da minha alma, no passado, no presente, e no futuro.
Por que demorei tanto tempo para escrever sobre esta peregrinaí§í£o? Porque demorei muito tempo, quase tres anos, para entende-la.

Meus amigos no Twitter e Facebook sí£o os primeiros a saber, além da nota dada hoje no Radar (Veja)
Será laní§ado no Brasil no final de julho.

Auctioning my companion/ Leiloando minha companhia

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We travelled together for 5 years, but it is time to let my companion go. It is a Vaio VGN-TX1XP where I wrote part of “The Witch of Portobello” and countless emails and columns for newspapers. All the data will be erased except for my books (in Portuguese) and my columns. The money will go to Instituto Paulo Coelho, supporting currently 430 children ( check here ) among other projects. The inicial bid is 1.000 USD. I will sign the top with the name of the winner. If you are interested, please send your bid till Sunday March 14, 11:59 PM to my assistant, [email protected] The highest bid will get the computer.
Thanks for helping supporting Instituto Paulo Coelho

UPDATE Sat 5:05 PM: WE HAD AN OPEN BID FROM MARIA MAGDALENA BACA, WHICH MEANS THAT SHE WILL COVER ANY BID. THEREFORE, THE AUCTION IS CLOSED AND WE THANK MARIA MAGDALENA BACA FOR HER SUPPORT.

Viajamos juntos por 5 anos mas é tempo de deixar minha companhia partir. É um Vaio VGN-TX1XP onde escrevi parte de “A Bruxa de Portobello” além de inumeráveis emails e muitas colunas para jornais. Toda a data será apagada, exceto meus livros (em Portugues) e as colunas que escrevi aqui. O dinheiro irá integralmente para o Instituto Paulo Coelho, que apoia 430 crianí§as na favela Paví£o-Pavaozinho (VEJA AQUI) , além de outros projetos sociais. O lance inicial é de 1.000 dólares, e vencerá o lance mais alto oferecido. O topo do laptop será autografado para o comprador. Se estiver interessado(a), envie sua proposta até domingo 14 Marí§o as 11:59 PM para [email protected] . O lance mais alto receberá o computador.
Obrigado pelo apoio ao Instituto

UPDATE Sat 5:05 PM : TIVEMOS UM LANCE ABERTO DE MARIA MAGDALENA BACA, O QUE SIGNIFICA QUE ELA COBRIRí QUALQUER OFERTA. PORTANTO, ESTOU FECHANDO O LEILAO E AGRADECENDO MARIA MAGDALENA BACA PELO APOIO

Quote of the Week

To believe in your path you don’t need to prove that other people’s choices are wrong

Thank you 300.000 friends

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This Sunday 07/Mar/2010 I am over 300.000 friends in Twitter. As I received some copies of my anthology Inspirations: Selections from Classic Literature, to be released tomorrow in UK, I am going to sign an mail a copy to the first person who answers the five questions below.

Talking to Gui Brockington, who developed my iPhone app , currently in the opening page of iTunes (they loved it) , he decided to offer a code to the second person who gives all the correct answers. This person can use this code to download the app for free, or – if she/he does not have an iPhone – to give as a gift to someone else.

1] What is your twitter username? (when answering the next questions, also answer this one so I can contact you by DM if you are the winner)

2] Name of the main feminine character in “By the river Piedra I sat down and wept”

3] City in Andalusia where the shepperd boy meets the King of Salem in “The Alchemist”

4] Country where the main character of “The Zahir” travels at the end of the book to meet his wife

5] Name of my guide in the Road to Santiago (“The Pilgrimage”)

Use the comments below to post your answers. I will moderate only the first and second winners.

UPDATE: @funkymad was the first, but she could not post it there, answered in Twitter. She got the book. I only approved the second (iPhone app) for you to see the correct answers

Quebre o copo!

(trecho de “Na margem do rio Piedra eu sentei e chorei”)

O vinho tornava as coisas mais fáceis para ele. E para mim.

– Por que vocíª parou de repente? Por que ní£o quer falar de Deus, da Virgem, do mundo espiritual?

– Quero falar de outro tipo de amor – insistiu. – Aquele que um homem e uma mulher compartilham, e em que também se manifestam os milagres.

Segurei suas mí£os. Ele podia conhecer os grandes mistérios da Deusa – mas de amor sabia tanto quanto eu. Mesmo que tivesse viajado tanto.

E teria que pagar um preí§o: a iniciativa. Porque a mulher paga o preí§o mais alto: a entrega.

Ficamos de mí£os dadas por um longo tempo. Lia em seus olhos os medos ancestrais que o verdadeiro amor coloca como provas a serem vencidas. Li a lembraní§a da rejeií§í£o da noite anterior, o longo tempo que passamos separados, os anos no mosteiro em busca de um mundo onde estas coisas ní£o aconteciam.

Lia em seus olhos as milhares de vezes em que havia imaginado este momento, os cenários que construí­ra ao nosso redor, o cabelo que eu devia estar usando e a cor da minha roupa. Eu queria dizer “sim”, que ele seria bem-vindo, que o meu coraí§í£o havia vencido a batalha. Queria dizer o quanto o amava, o quanto o desejava naquele momento.

Mas continuei em silíªncio. Assisti, como se fosse um sonho, í  sua luta interior. Vi que tinha diante dele o meu “ní£o”, o medo de me perder, as palavras duras que escutou em momentos semelhantes – porque todos passamos por isto, e acumulamos cicatrizes.

Seus olhos comeí§aram a brilhar. Sabia que estava vencendo todas aquelas barreiras.

Entí£o soltei uma das mí£os, peguei um copo e coloquei na beirada da mesa.

– Vai cair – disse ele.

– Exato. Quero que vocíª o derrube.

– Quebrar um copo?

Sim, quebrar um copo. Um gesto aparentemente simples, mas que envolvia pavores que nunca chegaremos a compreender direito. O que há de errado em quebrar um copo barato – quando todos nós já fizemos isto sem querer alguma vez na vida?

– Quebrar um copo? – repetiu ele. – Por quíª?

– Posso dar algumas explicaí§íµes – respondi. – Mas, na verdade, é apenas por quebrar.

– Por vocíª?

– Claro que ní£o.

Ele olhava o copo de vidro na beira da mesa – preocupado com que caí­sse.

“É um rito de passagem, como vocíª mesmo fala”, tive vontade de dizer. “É o proibido. Copos ní£o se quebram de propósito. Quando entramos em restaurantes ou em nossas casas, tomamos cuidado para que os copos ní£o fiquem na beira da mesa. Nosso universo exige que tomemos cuidado para que os copos ní£o caiam no chí£o.

Entretanto, continuei pensando, quando os quebramos sem querer, vemos que ní£o era tí£o grave assim. O garí§om diz “ní£o tem importí¢ncia”, e nunca na vida vi um copo quebrado ser incluí­do na conta de um restaurante. Quebrar copos faz parte da vida e ní£o causamos qualquer dano a nós, ao restaurante, ou ao próximo.

Dei um esbarrí£o na mesa. O copo balaní§ou, mas ní£o caiu.

– Cuidado! – disse ele, instintivamente.

– Quebre o copo – eu insisti.

Quebre o copo, pensava comigo mesma, porque é um gesto simbólico. Procure entender que eu quebrei dentro de mim coisas muito mais importantes que um copo, e estou feliz por isto. Olhe para a sua própria luta interior e quebre este copo.

Porque nossos pais nos ensinaram a tomar cuidado com os copos, e com os corpos. Ensinaram que as paixíµes de infí¢ncia sí£o impossí­veis, que ní£o devemos afastar homens do sacerdócio, que as pessoas ní£o fazem milagres, e que ninguém sai para uma viagem sem saber aonde vai.

Quebre este copo, por favor – e nos liberte de todos estes conceitos malditos, esta mania que se tem de explicar tudo e só fazer aquilo que os outros aprovam.

– Quebre este copo – pedi mais uma vez.

Ele fixou seus olhos nos meus. Depois, devagar, deslizou sua mí£o pelo tampo da mesa, até tocá-lo. Num rápido movimento, empurrou-o para o chí£o.

O barulho do vidro quebrado chamou a atení§í£o de todos. Em vez de disfarí§ar o gesto com algum pedido de desculpas, ele me olhava sorrindo – e eu sorria de volta.

– Ní£o tem importí¢ncia – gritou o rapaz que atendia as mesas.

Mas ele ní£o escutou. Havia se levantado, me agarrado pelos cabelos, e me beijava.

Eu também o agarrei nos cabelos, abracei-o com toda forí§a, mordi seus lábios, senti sua lí­ngua se movendo dentro de minha boca. Era um beijo que havia esperado muito – que havia nascido junto dos rios de nossa infí¢ncia, quando ainda ní£o compreendí­amos o significado do amor. Um beijo que ficou suspenso no ar quando crescemos, que viajou pelo mundo através da lembraní§a de uma medalha, que ficou escondido atrás de pilhas de livros de estudos para um emprego público. Um beijo que se perdeu tantas vezes e que agora tinha sido encontrado. Naquele minuto de beijo estavam anos de buscas, de desilusíµes, de sonhos impossí­veis.

Eu o beijei com forí§a. As poucas pessoas que estavam naquele bar devem ter olhado, e pensavam estar vendo apenas um beijo. Ní£o sabiam que naquele minuto de beijo estava o resumo de minha vida, da vida dele, da vida de qualquer pessoa que espera, sonha e busca o seu caminho debaixo do sol.

Naquele minuto de beijo estavam todos os momentos de alegria que vivi.

I did not choose the restaurant…

the interview is one page long, so read when you have time. A little biased, but funny

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Lunch with the FT: Paulo Coelho


By AN Wilson

Published: March 5 2010 16:51 | Last updated: March 5 2010 16:51

The Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is a phenomenon. Before meeting him for lunch I looked for his novels in a bookshop. They were not shelved under fiction. The assistant directed me to the Mind, Body, Spirit section, looking at me as if I were a bit of an anorak for wanting to read him.

The Alchemist (1988), Coelho’s second book, at first sold just 900 copies but eventually gained a cult following. To date, this tale of an Andalusian shepherd boy who travels the world in search of wisdom has sold more than 30m copies. The essence of its appeal is the central idea, repeated over and over again in Coelho’s other books, that anyone can change their life.

This is a fundamentally false idea. Most people are trapped by circumstance. But I was fascinated by this writer who could persuade so many people otherwise. Born in 1947 into a middle-class family in Rio de Janeiro, Coelho rebelled against his strict Catholic parentage. He became a hippy, enjoyed success as a writer of pop lyrics, married (four times) and explored the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Naturally left-leaning, Coelho fell foul of the Brazilian military dictatorship and, in 1974, was imprisoned and tortured.

In 1986, when Coelho was 38, his fourth wife Christina Oiticica persuaded him to walk the pilgrim’s road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and he reconverted to the Catholic faith of his boyhood. It is a small-c catholicism, which embraces the wisdom of the east, the Bhagavad Gita and so on. The journey inspired his first book The Pilgrimage, published in 1987.

Now the star author has compiled extracts from his favourite “classics” for a book called Inspirations. The result is a typical Coelho blend of sex and piety – explicitly sexual passages from Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez rub shoulders with the Desert Fathers and the Bhagavad Gita. It is a snapshot of Coelho’s mind.

The 62-year-old spends half the year in Rio de Janeiro and half in Geneva, and it is to the Swiss lakeside that I fly to meet him. We arrange to eat in the restaurant at the Hí´tel du Parc des Eaux-Vives, an appropriately spiritual name. I look forward to drinking the fountains of living water from his conversation, but also to a five-star lunch.

As you approach, you see a delightful 18th-century chateau. But the building and park are owned by the city of Geneva, and the gardens have that deadly municipal feeling. I arrive early for our one o’clock appointment, greedily anticipating the delicious-looking menu – maybe homard de Maine en médaillons et taboulé de chou-fleur au citron confit, oeuf Avruga (medallions of Maine lobster with cauliflower tabbouleh with lemon confit and caviar), followed by joues de cochons cuites basse température aux senteurs de sauge (pigs’ cheeks slowly cooked with sage).

The restaurant is filling up. An ageing blonde and her paramour occupy one corner. Two men tuck into scallops and a bottle of white burgundy in another. Suddenly, Coelho is by the French window, waving. He is shortish, with a grey beard and a long wisp of white hair at the back. He wears a black suit, black shirt, black trousers and trainers. Once inside, he gives me a bone-crunching handshake.
“When I lived in London the Financial Times was very important for me. My country had a military dictatorship. This paper was the only one which told me the truth about my country.”

I graciously accept his compliment to the FT and try to interest him in the menu.

“Are you into breakfast, lunch or dinner?” he asks me.

All of them, I reply.

“I eat breakfast and dinner. No lunch,” he says.

Since the format of the article had been made clear to him, I implore him to make an exception. What about a cocktail? “Only orange juice.” I order myself a gin martini with an olive and he says he would like the same. I ask where he learnt his English, which is fluent but, at times, grammatically suspect. “I became a hippie.” A roar of laughter.

The “martinis” arrive. They are warm tumblers into which someone has sloshed white Cinzano. No ice and no gin. I hate complaining so I am all for just ordering some wine but Coelho patiently explains to the young waiter how a New York barman would shake a martini. Perplexingly, he then switches his order to orange juice.

We settle into the interview. Coelho tells me he has become an internet junkie. So I ask how many hours a day he spends online.

“More than I should.”

You have more than 677,000 friends on Facebook, I say.

“Exactly.” Another roar of engaging laughter. “How do you know?”

They are mostly women, I suggest.

“Yeah, yeah … In a normal Facebook page you can have a maximum of 5,000 people. Then if it is more than 5,000 people it changes. It turns into a fan page. As for women, there is only one place that I can see my readership – it is my signing sessions, which I do not do any more.”

Why did you give them up?

“In London three years ago we had to go to Borders in Oxford Street. We had over six hours’ signing. I am much more like a rock star than a writer. So I decided first I cannot sign all the books.”

It is time for us to order. Eventually, Coelho finds a simple boiled egg on the menu – oeuf de ferme Suisse cuit molle í  notre faí§on (egg boiled “in our own way” – although their way of boiling an egg is very much like anyone else’s. They take the shell off, though). In the circumstances I can hardly order the menu gastronomique for myself, so I settle for fish – filet de cabillaud au beurre et au combawa (cod fillet with butter and kaffir lime).

Coelho asks if I have read Eleven Minutes (the world’s bestselling fiction title of 2003), which is the diary of a prostitute. Luckily, I can say that I have. Coelho tells her life story almost as if it is a fairytale. “Every one of us has one foot in a fairytale and another in the abyss,” he writes. The “11 minutes” of the title is the time it takes for one of her clients to satisfy himself, and she imagines the rest of his day while the procedure is taking place.

It is, I think, not only the boldest but the best thing he has written. The book is based on the diary of a real Brazilian woman who was working as a prostitute in Switzerland. He is bursting to talk about it and he does so while sipping his orange juice. I order a glass of house red, a Pinot Noir.

“I used her diary as the basis for the story.”

How did you meet her?

“It’s a very strange story. I was giving a conference in Mantova [Italy]. And in the middle of the multitude there was someone with a placard, saying, ‘I need to talk to you,’ in Portuguese. I say, ‘This is a troubled person.’ I said to my Italian publisher, ‘I must talk to this lady’ … Well, she came to me and said, ‘I have a manuscript.’ I said, ‘My lawyer forbids me to read any manuscript. If I read it and eventually there is one sentence…'”

They’ll say you borrowed it and then they will ask for money, I say.

“Yah. Plagiarism. Anyway, she left the manuscript in the hotel. I had nothing to read that evening and I start reading this book. And I always had as one of my goals in life to write a book on sex. But I could never find a great line. I read the book, and I say, ‘Oh, she is a prostitute.'”

Is she still?

“No, she’s not any more. She married.”

They arranged to meet when Coelho was next in Zurich. “She said, ‘Do you want to go to the red-light district?’ I say, ‘Why not?'” There follows a long account of his giving an interview to a Swiss journalist, then having some dinner. With the prostitute? I ask, struggling to keep up.

“No, no, no” – a slight testiness suggests I should pay more attention. “With an architect.” After dinner Coelho takes the journalist and the architect out. “I am going to show you Zurich by night. But not the one you expect. At 9.30 this prostitute is going to arrive, and we go to Langstrasse [the red-light district]. So we went to this nightclub and she had brought all her friends – there were all the prostitutes there, their pimps, and we had a signing session!”

What had seemed to be a story about Coelho being tempted by the red-light district has turned into the red-light district being tempted by Coelho.

Where was your wife?

“She was in Brazil … I called her on the telephone, in case this, you know, get into the press, and she say, ‘So what? You’re not the Pope.'”

How old was Sonia [the prostitute]?

“Twenty-seven, 28. I was 55. We do not have any … you understand.”

No, I understand that, I reassure him.

I ask how his wife copes, not with infidelities, but with all his female fans?

“She is very happy. We have been married for 30 years. There is nothing I treasure in my life more.”

You married before The Alchemist?

“Long before. She’s been with me through the whole process.”

Is she very devout?

“She is very devout. Thanks to her I went back to Christianity.”

I ask what his wife thinks of the Pope.

“I don’t know what she thinks but I know what I think about the Pope.”

Which is?

“He is much more into politics than into religion … There was a Brazilian monk, a Franciscan who was preaching to help the poor. Ratzinger made this monk take a vow of silence for a year. He does real damage. Great damage is done by fundamentalism. In Christianity. In Islam.”

I agree with him. What are we to do, Paulo? I ask. I’m of religious temperament, so are you. We have an essentially religious response to life. But we see all these lunatics, and in so many quarrels I am on the side of the unbelievers.

“So am I!” he says. “But in the same way that America survived George Bush, and England survived Tony Blair, the church will survive this Pope.” Roars of laughter.

As well as being a dispenser of wisdom to millions, Coelho has done great good back home in Rio, and I ask him about his charity, the Paulo Coelho Institute, which funds a school for poor children.

“You understand, as one of your wise preachers in the UK said, no man is an island.”

John Donne, I say.

“So I said [to myself], ‘You are not an island, you have to participate.’ I said, ‘I cannot change my country … but I can change my street.’ At the end of my street there is favela. There are terrible conditions. And I went to these two women doing something very wonderful. The idea was very clear, it moved me. ‘We can take care of the child. But the child cannot sleep here. He or she will go back to home. And the child will then change the whole family with positive energy.’ Of course we went beyond that and we have 430 children.

“These ladies are saints. I am here eating in this beautiful restaurant, looking over this beautiful lake and they are there working hard with the poor children of Brazil.”

I feel a little guilty as I wipe up the last of the buttery sauce from the tiny helping of fish. Coelho has finished his boiled egg. Obviously there won’t be a dessert but he agrees to a coffee. “You know something,” he says. “You did not ask me what all the journalists always ask – ‘Tell me the secret of your success.’ If I knew the secret, I would spoil the whole thing.”

I mention my theory that the secret of his success is his idea that we can all change our own destinies. I tell him how false I think this is. Imagine being a factory worker aged 40 with children. You can’t just escape, or change your life.

He looks hurt, and disappears into the Gents to mull over my heresy. When he emerges, and we say goodbye on the municipal lawns, he again crunches my hand. What he says makes me realise that there is another country – Bestseller Land – where dreams come true.

“You do have a choice,” he smiles. “Follow your path. So, you work in this factory, you have to adapt yourself like Scarlett O’Hara. She changes the curtains into a beautiful dress. Then you will have done your best. Then you become the king of your own kingdom.”

I look for him going down the drive, but he walks off beyond a shrubbery and then I see he has broken into a run.

…………………………

Restaurant Hí´tel du Parc des Eaux-Vives
82, quai Gustave-Ador,
Geneva, Switzerland

Dry martini x 2 SFr16.00
Orange juice SFr5.50
Boiled egg SFr24.00
Cod fillet SFr28.00
Halfbottle of Evian SFr7.00
Glass of Pinot Noir SFr7.00
Espresso coffee x 2 SFr9.60

Total SFr97.10 (£60)

Que ninguém se lembre de nós

Paulo Coelho

No mosteiro de Sceta, o abade Lucas reuniu os frades para o sermí£o.

– Que vocíªs jamais sejam lembrados – disse ele.

– Mas como? – respondeu um dos irmí£os. – Será que nosso exemplo ní£o pode ajudar quem está precisando?

– No tempo em que todo mundo era justo, ninguém prestava atení§í£o nas pessoas exemplares – respondeu o abade.

“Todos davam o melhor de si, sem pretender, com isso, cumprir seu dever com o irmí£o.

“Amavam ao seu próximo porque entendiam que isto era parte da vida, e ní£o estavam fazendo nada de especial em respeitar uma lei da natureza.

“Dividiam seus bens para ní£o terem que ficar acumulando mais do que podiam carregar, já que as viagens duravam a vida inteira.

“Viviam juntos em liberdade, dando e recebendo, sem nada a cobrar ou culpar os outros.

“Por isso seus feitos ní£o foram contados, e eles ní£o deixaram nenhuma história. Quem dera, pudéssemos conseguir a mesma coisa no presente: fazer do bem uma coisa tí£o comum, que ní£o haja qualquer necessidade de exaltar aqueles que o praticaram”.

Aforismi di Paulo Coelho

Quote of the Week

Don’t allow your wounds to turn you into a person you are not.