Everyone asks a lot of how, they don’t ask why

You say in Aleph that ‘writing is, above all, about discovering myself’, so in which of your books have you discovered most about yourself?

All of them. But the turning point in my life was my first book, The Pilgrimage because I started to tell everybody I was a writer.

Do you think the way that Western society is constructed, with emphasis on material possessions, that we are programmed to never find fulfilment?

Everyone asks a lot of how, they don’t ask why. They want to know how to do this, how to do that, but we should ask more why should I do this, why should I do that. It has to with consumer society. How did you become rich? How did you become a bestseller? How did you become a journalist? Just change how to why it makes a lot of difference to life.

Is the world suffering an economic crisis because people are looking for the wrong things in life?

It’s the irresponsibility of politicians. You know, I know – we live in a big lie. Everybody knows but we close our eyes back to the comfort zone and one day it explodes and everybody is affected. Mostly poor people. I’m very pessimistic about this economic crisis. I don’t think it is over.

In Aleph, you also say that instead of fighting for God, we should fight against God.

Sometimes yes.

Can you elaborate?

Fighting for God we see now: Christian fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism… They give their lives because the message is a powerful one: you are martyr. I’m a Catholic so I know what I’m talking about, because my Church was founded on the blood of the martyrs.
People start justifying their lives because they need raison d’etre – they need a reason to live. They are trying to convince themselves about their faith.
Fighting against God: it is everywhere in the Bible. Even Jesus – fought against God. When He says, ‘God, why did you forsake me?’ on the cross, or when He asks “Take this cup away from me”.
Then you have this intense relationship with God that is not a relationship of submission.
However, if you accept everything, if you do not ask why or how, you are not living, just obeying a set of rules. Like a lamb.

You lived through dictatorship, imprisonment and torture in Brazil during the 1970s, what advice would you have for those being oppressed?

You remember at the beginning of our conversation about losing our faith? So, I totally lost my faith. When I was released I thought, this cannot happen to me. This is not fair, this is not just, God does not love me. It took me seven years to get rid of this experience.
It is very difficult to give advice because when you are in jail and when you are tortured you don’t exist anymore. After you are released, the prison remains in your soul. In my case, there was only one thing that healed the experience. It was time.
But as I know what does it mean to be arrested, today I am part of Amnesty International, I am a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations, on the board of the Doha Center of Media Freedom, and use my influence to avoid these situations.

Read the full interview in this week “The Big Issue” (UK)

Online Bookstore HERE
Kindle (four languages) HERE



  1. Camille Bea Nicole Rico says:

    I was never a fan of Paulo Coelho nor even have an interest in reading any of his books not until one day that I am in search of my lost soul and when I read an excerpt from Aleph, it hit me. Despite my financial incapability, I push through in buying the book and every penny that I spent was all worth it. Will surely buy more books written by him. I extend my prayers that may the Divine providence feed the souls of many through his books. :)

  2. rena says:

    I’ve read this book in just two days… It’s not the first of your books that i have read (i’ve read the most and i love each one like the best book ever written!) but it is the first book I’ve read that fast! My husband was saying “take a break, rest your mind, or you will forget everything”… The truth is that every single word shouts so loud in my head that it feels like someone inside me is reading the lines again and again. I do not think i needed this book right now… I think i needed this book in my whole life! Thank you Mr. Coelho, thank you very much… Thank you for this book and thank you for every previous one!

  3. Jho says:

    Dear Mister Paulo, I just finished reading ALEPH and I have to say that this book impressed me! Why every person who ever reads that book needs to have an open mind. My mother for example,, she wouldn’t like it…not at all. And have you felt the need to go on and find yourself again?

  4. A.J says:

    Mr. Paulo i am from Palestine, and i read your books which translate to Arabic and that was great books which i loved.
    i just wanna ask you about your opinion about the Palestine and Israel conflict ??

  5. erin says:

    I am reading Aleph now. I’ve found that there is a short story of the same title, written by Jorge Luis Borges. I’ve read this before, but I don’t remember when, or why. Does Coelho mention an aleph in another book? I see they share another title, The Zahir, but I’ve not read either of these yet. Any insight?

  6. I didn’t even finish it yet, but it helped me realise some very important things already and thanks to this

  7. Anders says:

    I have finished a truly amazing book, it’s called ”The Mind of God”, written by ”Paul Cochrane” i just want to share a excerpts of it:

    An example of how one person’s tragedy saved countless lives is found in the story of Phan Thi Kim Phuc. In 1972, Kim Phuc, a 9-year-old girl, lived in Trang Bang, Viet Nam. The war was raging, and as fate would have it, her village was targeted by a US-ordered air strike. The bombs dropped that day contained napalm, a jellied form of burning gasoline. Kim was caught in the flames. Her clothes were burned off and her skin seared. She had a third-degree burns over 75 percent of her body. As she ran to escape, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut happened to be there. He took a photo before rushing her to hospital ( Search Phan Thi Kim Phuc in google, for the picture).
    Nick’s photo captured the terror of the event and was circulated worldwide. It eventually won a Pulitzer Prize. It so affected public opinion that it became a significant factor in bringing the war to an end. After the war, the incident was mostly forgotten.
    In 1982, a German journalist asked the Vietnamese government what happened to the girl in the picture. His inquiry led to a two-year search. When she was finally located, the government forced Kim to leave medical school and do interviews for propaganda. The emotional stress, in addition to what she had already suffered, persuaded her to struggle in a search for God, and she eventually converted to Christianity. Her perspective on what happened the day of the attack is phenomenal:

    God used me that day. Even though so much of my body was burned, my feet were not burned, and so i could run out and be there for that photo. It saved a lot of souls and brought an end to the war … He created that moment when I was burned and photographed so that I could help others. He gave me a life, and then he changed my life, and then he healed me.

    In 1992, Kim married and defected to Canada with her husband, and they had two sons. In 1998, she was named a goodwill ambassador by the United Nations organization UNESCO, and also established a foundation for child war victims.
    In all of Job’s troubles, his greatest conflict arose when he questioned why, considering his misfortunes were the product of some cause. This is nowhere better expressed than by Jesus himself while hanging on the cross, ”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” The most profound words he ever spoke, they are actually a question that hangs in time and space before us: ”My God, my God, WHY have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

    1. Chental Wilson says:


  8. Pit says:

    “Why?” is the query of a skeptic…
    “How?” is the question of a person who wants to believe…

  9. Kinga says:

    Aleph is a great book, a great experience and an even greater lecture to whom are open to it. I was probabily just one of the many people who needed exactly this lecture at exact same moment. I didn’t even finish it yet, but it helped me realise some very important things already and thanks to this I was able to find a solution to cut a very heavy baggage, an “old” relationship which was holding me back in a great mesure causing even a lot of pain. So, I would like to thank you in the name of every of us. :)

  10. Arto Hutto says:

    Can it be so that forgiveness is the key to all healing? When you have forgiven yourself you can go onwards and after forgiven people who has done wrong against you, you can heal from the trauma.

  11. sheyla estefany paiva huamani says:

    Estimado señor paulo coelho , pues a mi parecer sus redacciones son muy reflexivas, yo por ejemplo tuve la oportunidad de leer una de sus historietas por la via de mi profesor en el cual me dio el diario del comercio, me parecio muy interesante y raflexiva su historia. Esas historias de hechos y sucesos nos iso pensar a mi y a mis compañeros de estudio del 0092 Alfred Nobel en San Juan de Lurigancho del salon del 5to “D” .
    Me despido cordialmente señor paulo coelho, espero tener su respuesta.
    Atte: sheyla paiva huamani del colegio algfred nobel de SJL del salon del 5to “D”

  12. Heeweeyou says:

    It’s called the route canal

  13. Gozar de la plena consciencia
    Estimado señor escritor Paulo Coelho me dirijo a usted para saludarlo y ala vez para felicitarlo por su columna exitosa ,ya que con estos consejos ha ayudado a muchos jóvenes como yo ,a reflexionar acerca de nosotros mismos y en el camino que hoy en dí­a estamos siguiendo. Transformación supone poner en práctica los retos que este camino nos impone .Thich Nhat nos explica que la palabra iluminación es tener la visión clara en relación con alguna cosa ,debemos tener consciencia de nuestros actos y ser conscientes de todo cuanto hacemos .
    Gracias señor escritor por hacernos conocer “LA LLAVE DE LA PAZ” y por medio de esta columna “EL COMERCIO” nos oriente acerca de la vida a mi y a mis compañeros de la I.E ALFRED NOBEL DE S.J.L
    Me despido atentamente señor escritor PAULO COELHO con un cordial saludo.
    Atte.: yakelyn Suarez Figueroa “5to B”
    19 de octubre del 2011