Stories & Reflections
The Brazilian-born writer on wealth, travel and having coffee with strangers
Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions. I discovered very early in life that the best way for me to communicate is through my writing, but it took me years to realise that it’s what I needed to do full time.
I remember the moments after I was born. Someone entered the room, and I said to myself: “This is my grandmother.” Nobody believes me. I’ve asked doctors if it’s possible – the answer is always no, but I know what I saw that day.
Writing is a solitary experience. I’m extremely superstitious. If I talk about the book or name the title out loud before finishing, I feel the energy I need to write will be drained. It’s so intimate I can’t even share it with my wife.
My connection with Brazil is so abstract. My blood and my way of thinking is Brazilian, but that’s it. I don’t tend to go back to the past and, although I have an apartment there, I rarely visit. When I move, I really move.
I’ve made a lot of money. It’s nice to be able to wear a very good coat in the Geneva winter [where Coelho now lives], but I feel I’ve always been rich. I could afford my greatest pleasures even when I wasn’t wealthy. Travel, archery, writing and reading don’t cost a lot.
I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfil our destiny, but our fate is sealed.
A lot of people feel intimidated by me. There are usually two ways they deal with my fame: they either become very shy and I have to do all the talking, which bores me, or they start name dropping and boasting about how much money they have.
I don’t miss being a hippy. I had an enormous amount of fun and I travelled the world on a shoestring. But I couldn’t stay in that state forever, totally stoned, wandering across the planet.
Humans are not monogamous by nature. For the sake of the preservation of our species, we are not meant to be. But I do believe in marriage. I’ve been married for 34 years. Love is the most important thing in my life.
In anger, I react like an animal. My temper is Latin. If I’m in a bad mood, you’ll know about it. I’d be a terrible politician as I always say what I think.
A lot of people want to be vampires. Fighting against the ageing process is futile. I’m thrilled that I haven’t died young and that I’m getting older without bitterness. It’s a joy.
I have a lot of free time. There is this idea that when you’re a successful writer you’re always so busy, but I’m not. I spend a lot of time walking around and having coffee with strangers.
I visit obscure book shops just to check that my work is still stocked.
Paulo Coelho is the author of HIPPIE