Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Twenty years later: Between Novosibirsk and Irkutsk

Author: Paulo Coelho

It is still impossible to write on the train, because of all the shaking. I meet readers at the stations (see the photos in the gallery), talk with them, learn a lot from their eyes and the few words we manage to exchange. Some tell stories, others talk of their cities and the regions they come from.

One of them tells me: “Do you know exactly where you are right now? You are in a train station, along with many other people, and at this very moment there is a good chance that many people hold in their hearts the same hopes and despair as you.

“Let’s go on: you are a microscopic dot on the surface of a ball. This ball revolves around another, which in turn is located in a little corner of a galaxy, together with millions of similar balls.

“This galaxy is part of something called the Universe, full of gigantic stellar agglomerations. Nobody knows exactly where what we call the Universe starts and ends.

“Even so, don’t let yourself be beaten by the fatigue of the journey: you fight, make efforts, and try to improve, you have dreams, grow happy or sad because of Love. If you weren’t alive, something would be missing.”

I do not know where the reader found these words (he was reading from a piece of paper), but those are the words I needed to hear at that moment.


Two stops further ahead, a reader tells me a story about a carpenter and his assistants traveling through the province of Qi (at the moment we are very near China), in search of building material. They saw a giant tree, so big that five men holding hands cannot embrace it, and so tall that it touches the clouds.

“Let’s not waste our time on this tree,” said the master carpenter. “It will take us so long to cut it down. If we want to make a boat, the trunk is so heavy that it will sink. If we decide to use it for the structure of a roof, the walls will have to be made exaggeratedly thick.”

The group continued on its way. One of the apprentices remarked:

“Such a big tree and no use for anything!”

“You are wrong,” said the master carpenter. “It has followed its destiny in its own way. If it were like the others, we would have cut it down. But because it had the courage to be different, it will stay alive and strong for a long time.”


The Taoists tell that in the beginning of time Spirit and Matter waged a mortal combat. Finally Spirit triumphed – and Matter was condemned to live for ever inside the Earth.

Before that happened, however, his head hit against the firmament and broke the star-filled sky into pieces.

The goddess Niuka emerged from the sea, resplendent in her armor of fire. Boiling the colors of the rainbow in a cauldron, she managed to put the stars back in their proper places, but was unable to find two small slivers, and the firmament was incomplete.

This is the origin of love: two souls are always crossing the Earth, each in search of its Other Part. When they meet, they manage to fit together the two parts that are missing in the sky and the whole Universe then makes sense to the couple.

I think constantly about this as the Trans-Siberian train crosses this long steppe.


Unbelievable as it may sound, many people are afraid of happiness. To these people, feeling good with life means changing a whole set of habits – and losing their own identity.

We often feel unworthy of the good things that happen to us. We do not accept miracles – because accepting them makes us feel that we owe something to God. Besides, we are afraid of “getting used” to happiness.

We think: “better not to drink of the cup of happiness, because we will miss it so much when we no longer have it”.

For fear of diminishing, we stop growing. For fear of crying, we stop laughing.


In the train I meet someone coming from Morocco who tells me a strange story about how certain desert tribes see original sin.

Eve was strolling in the Garden of Eden when the serpent came up to her.

“Eat this apple”, said the serpent.

Very well instructed by God, Eve refused.

“Eat this apple”, insis¬ted the serpent,” because you have to make yourself more beautiful for your man”.

“I don’t have to”, answered Eve. “Because he has no other woman but me”.

The serpent laughed: “Of course he does”.

And since Eve did not believe him, he led her to the top of a hill, where there was a well.

“She is inside this cave; Adam hid her there”.

Eve leaned over and saw a beautiful woman reflected in the water of the well. Immediately she ate the apple that the serpent offered her.

According to this same Moroccan tribe, all those who recognize themselves in the reflection of the well and are no longer afraid of themselves, return to Paradise.

The next text will be posted on the 4th of June.

P.S: Dear reader,

During this journey, that is filling my soul with very interesting experiences, one of the most magical moments comes every night when I read the comments posted on this blog. Even though I can’t answer all of you, I want you to know that it’s very important to me to know that I’m not alone on this path. Thank you so much for your support and for the words and ideas that are now engraved on my heart.

Paulo Coelho

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