Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

20 SEC READING: Praha, 1981

Author: Paulo Coelho

Illustration by Ken Crane


Once, in the winter of 1981, I was walking with my wife through the streets of Prague when we came across a young man drawing the buildings around him.

Although I dread carrying things with me when I travel (and there was still more traveling ahead), I was taken by one of the drawings and decided to buy it.
When I handed him the money I noticed that he was not wearing gloves, despite the cold weather (it was 5 degrees below zero).

“Why aren’t you wearing gloves?” I asked.
“So I can hold the pencil.” And he began to tell me how he loved Prague in the winter, that was the best season to draw the city. He was so happy with his sale that he decided to do a portrait of my wife without charging anything.

While I was waiting for him to finish the drawing, I realized that something odd had happened: we had chatted for almost five minutes without being able to speak one another’s language.

We made ourselves understood only by gestures, laughter, facial expressions and the desire to share something.

The simple desire to share something had enabled us to enter into the world of language without words, where everything is always clear and there is not the slightest risk of being misunderstood.

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