Hasn’t it been difficult for you to stay in Brasil after all the harm the Brasilian dictatorship has done to you in former times? What made you stay there although you have been imprisonned under very cruel circumstances from your own people?
It was impossible to live in Brazil, because after being in jail, you develop a kind of paranoia, you think that everybody is following you, listening to your conversations, etc. So, after being released, I went to London, but after three or four months, I realized that this was to scape to reality, to be a “strange in a strange land”for the rest of my life. So I decided to face my fears, and I returned to Brasil. It was better to die here than the be a living dead in a foreign place – I made this choice.
As for the second part of your question: I was not imprisioned by my own people, I was imprisioned by the military junta, that kept my people silent under the threat of weapons. My people was waiting, because there is no arguments against force. On the other hand, nobody can keep the pressure forever, so at the long run Freedom won, and here we are, with our problems, but also with the freedom to talk about them.
Hasn’t it been difficult for you to stay in Brasil after all the harm the Brasilian dictatorship has done to you in former times? What made you stay there although you have been imprisonned under very cruel circumstances from your own people?
I would like to know how you delt/deal with the restlessness that some people -including me- struggles with?
I am also struggling with myself all the time, but I am very optimistic in this sense. People are realizing more and more that happiness is freedom, and freedom is to be able to “travel light”, not possessing a lot of things, because at the end of the day, the things start to possess you. I remember that I considered to buy a castle in France. I went to see some. One day I realized that if I buy a castle, I cannot think about anything but taking care of it. Therefore, I bought a small watermill, so to keep it is very easy, and I have time to go to the mountains, to walk, do spend my life in the way that I would like. In short: the less you have to keep, the more you have in freedom. And one of the lessons nature teaches you is exactly that: keep your contradictions, as summer is the opposite of winter.
I really admire your thoughts and your messages around the pursue of one’s dream .However, not everyone is blessed with a childhood dream or a Personal Legend. Those of us that have been brought up with such a rigid pattern (school, school, work, more school, marriage, kid, etc), do not even have the luxury of dreaming what we want to become. Unfortunately, my best friend and I are among them. So, here we are, reading your books in frustration….
We completely grab the idea of pursuing the Personal Legend, but are stuck!
After reading your book, the idea of not having known what we shall pursue in life until the day we die, is really torturing to the bits of our nail.
The worst part: there is no turning back….!
Once the idea (of pursuing personal legend) has grown in our mind (or soul, shall I say it), we just cannot pretend that we do not believe what we read and return to normal life with ignorance. We cannot just act and behave normally like other woman in our ages (mid 30’s, happy smile while doing groceries or while working in the office) while we know there’s something missing in our life but have no slightest idea what the missing part is.
We keep questioning God on what we should do….
So, our question is basically simple…. How do we know whether a Personal Legend has been ‘tagged’ on us? And what journey should we take to know what they are?
Let’s do this by parts.
Firstly – if the idea of personal legend is something that is “torturing” you – well, let me say that you are in the good track.
People that have died to themselves don’t even bother wondering about this. You are alive and you wish to accomplish something – even if for the moment you don’t really know what it is.
Secondly – I totally disagree with “there’s no turning back”. Of course there is! Look at me for instance : I had parents that didn’t support me on my dream and committed me to an asylum, I was tortured in my mid-twenties, and I only truly managed to write a book at the age of 40! The possibility of “turning back” is actually the possibility of “moving forward”.
Now – how can you find out? Honestly, you should first allow yourself to do the things you want to do. You will see – it starts with very small things, but when this becomes a habit, little by little you start seeing the road you wish to take.
Having faith that the present can be infinitely richer and that life is a mystery is the beginning of the journey.
My question is, can you tell us more about this quote of the day, “Anyone who gives help also receives help and needs to teach what he has learned?” How can we share the light we’ve found with people in our lives who may not have found their own path yet?
Firstly by trying to understand why they are acting the way they are. Before judging if a person is or not in their path, first we need to understand why they thread in the current path they are threading.
Of course, if a person is unhappy and they let you know about this – then you can actually say what you think. But remember, while giving your opinion you need to leave very clear that you are doing this out of love and nothing else.
The best way to reach someone is by letting them know that they have reached your heart first.
Please send your question for selection to [email protected]
In your books you are proving, that you have great feeling for contemporary human and his distresses. What do you think in what direction is going the future man? Will he be capable to survive and save his integrity, creativeness and intellect, and above all mental health?
It’s always very tricky to talk about “mental health”: I’ve been committed as a teenager to a clinic institution.
I felt in my own skin the burden of being cataloged as “mentally disturbed” just because i didn’t fit into the social norms.
In my wanderings I came to believe that a person has a personal legend to fulfill. What is a personal legend? It is the reason why we are alive.
In my case this legend was to share my ideas with others through writing.
We have dreams, that are not necessarily the dreams that our parents or society had for us.
So, we must get rid of the idea of fulfilling what people expect us to do, and start to do what we expect from our lives. The message in my book “Veronika decides to die” is that: dare to be different. You are unique, and you have to accept you as you are, instead of trying to repeat other people’s destinies or patterns.
Insanity is to behave like someone that you are not. Normality is the capacity to express your feelings. From the moment that you don’t fear to share your heart, you are a free person.
There’s a motto in Alchemy: “Concentrate and dissolve”.
As you may know alchemists would, through laboratory studies, try to distill the mercury from the sulphur and then refine the mercury until it converted into gold.
This quest would lead them to the Philosopher Stone (which was the solid component) and the Long Life Elixir.
All the process of distilling is based on this very simple motto: concentrate – meaning extracting the essence – and dissolve – meaning mixing the essence with something else.
Many disregard that through this routine, alchemists were also training their patience and thus transforming their perception of the world.
I think you can apply this same motto to love: in order to preserve love’s freedom, one has to be able at the same time to dive into its essence and to share it with others.
UN News Centre: Why are you so committed to intercultural dialogue… with your readers and through your work with the UN?
It is because of my personal history. I lived in a dictatorship in Brazil and I was arrested three times. I felt in my flesh what it is to live under such a regime and experience deprivation of freedom.
When I realized my books were being read around the world – currently over 180 millions copies have been sold, and each book is read by an average of three people – I felt if I can share stories that touch the hearts of so many different people, then I can in some way collaborate to make improvements in this world. Each of those readers has a different background, from Iran, Israel, Iraq, Kurdistan, South Africa…but there is still a cultural bridge.
I think all people have the same question. At the end of the day we are all asking this classic and common question: what am I doing here?
Probably we don’t have the same answer. But if we have the same question, we can understand each other.
Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbours are, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions. People have to understand that their neighbours are not different even if they have a different religion, different sociological background.
At this moment, I don’t see too much hope in political dialogue. But I see a lot of hope in cultural dialogue.
In your novels, you transmit a wonderful magical world, full of spirituality and goodness, and you insist that goodness is not limited to a place, religion or group. How did you reach this conclusion, especially with all that you went through earlier in your life?
The cost is always high but worth it. If I look back at my life – which in this moment I am “obliged” to look at since a biography about my lyricist days just came out in Brazil and soon another will come out by the end of the year – I see many occasions where society tried to make me conform to “normality”. This resulted in three hospitalizations in an asylum when I was a teenager (which I describe in my book Veronika decides to die), torture when I was a young adult by the hands of the paramilitaries, and many defeats. You could look at these experiences and say “Paulo’s life is tragic” but I don’t see it that way. What I do see is someone trying to remain true to oneself. Yes there is a price but I believe that life tends to be very generous to those that are brave enough to take these risks. In a word, I’ve always had faith in life.
photo by Paulo Coelho
Have you ever felt that – without regret – you have chosen and are on the wrong path, and though you wish to be free of it, abandoning this road will cause much more chaos and hurt than staying on it? (Sue-Ann Marquis)
I had moments in my life that I absolutely knew that I was on the wrong path. For instance, when I became an executive for a record company.
My paycheck was good, I had a woman I loved next to me but… something vital was missing.
For a time, I had the impression that if I let go, it would cause much hardship for us. But inevitably the situation got unsustainable. I was truly unsatisfied with my life and started to notice that my soul was dying in the process.
I decided then to leave my job and travel for 6 months across Europe with Christina (this was back in 1982). This initial travel enabled me to encounter my master in Germany, then Amsterdam. From this moment on, I focused on trying to get as close as I could to my calling: being a writer.
However, it took an extra 4 years to actually be able to tell a story – my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella ( The Pilgrimage).
So – in order to answer your question: yes, I walked a path that wasn’t mine. I felt scared to leave this path that I knew so well. But the moment I stepped out, it turned out that all the demons I expected to face weren’t there at all. I had hardships of course, but all was worthwhile – because my soul was alive.
What kind of person Paulo Coelho is in everyday life? ( Richard, in Twitter)
For the past two years, I decided to stop giving interviews – I am tired to repeat the same questions over and over again. Of course this is not a final decision, and I can eventually accept an invitation – but my mailbox is full of requests that my office answers with a single word: “busy”.
I also have small rituals that I need to accomplish (at home or travelling): walking in the morning, reading the news in the internet, talking to my friends and my wife.
Of course, I also live my life in a way that every day will present new challenges and unexpected things. I don’t like to have everything planned beforehand.
This is mainly because:
a] It’s pointless : life is impossible to predict
b] It’s the very salt of life – I don’t want to know what’s going to happen.
The Nobel prize winner, Kenzaboro Oe once said that you had discovered the secrets of literary alchemy. I’m sure there are several younger writers interested in leaning about these secrets. Would you mind sharing them with us? (Valéry Peyrot, France)
The average book print in the US or France is that of about 3000 copies – the same as in Brazil.
Therefore, the only secret I know is the word-of-mouth.
It took me close to ten years, for example, to appear in the New York Times Best Seller List. (but now the book is breaking all records – almost four years there)
As for the formula: an author that tries to express himself or herself thinking only about the market, may have a successful book once, but he/she most likely will not repeat the same success – which will not permit that the author makes a living out of literature.
In my case, I did the only thing I should have done, or use my writings to get to know myself better. As long as I kept being loyal to myself, without looking for formulas, the readers have also remained loyal.
Two of my books, for example, did not sell well: The Fifth Mountain and The winner stands alone. However, if I could go back to the past, I would still write these two books, because they express what I feel about tragedy and celebrity
Literature got further away from criticism, exactly because instead of being more traditional, criticism became reactionary. Thus, literary criticism does not have the power neither to sell, nor to avoid sales.
The reader, on the other hand, is watching reality more closely, and he/she buys whatever will reflect his/her state of mind or the status quo.
You write because you need to write. The career of a book is beyond your control.
How can we be able to retain good values in ourselves? (Ankit, Twitter)
I don’t see this from this perspective – I don’t think we “retain” good values.
This would mean that we would be trying to keep inside ourselves things that ultimately do not belong to us.
In a way your question is quite revealing of what society tries to instill in us: to be able to retain the rules of “dos” and “don’ts” of others.
I see good values in a different way; I see them in the sense of a greater understanding and joy.
This can only be found within our souls – not outside from us. We have then to “tap” into this source that is available in virtually all of us.
This is the moment when we identify, in the silence of ourselves, the greater light, the greater path.
Once we recognize this inner fountain, we stop “retaining” and actually become instruments of a higher purpose: to allow it flow without questions, without the seeking of a reward.
This is the only value, in my eyes, that truly matters.
I had many moments of pain and doubt. Becoming a best-selling author was a long journey and I faced many setbacks along the way.
For instance, I had a rough time with my second book The Alchemist. It was first published by a small publishing house and even though it sold well, at the end of the first year, the publisher decided to give me back the rights since, according to his words, “he could make more money in the stock exchange”.
At the time I decided to leave Rio with my wife and we spent 40 days in the Mojave dessert. I needed to heal myself from this and when I came I decided to keep on struggling.
I realized that despite the fear and the bruises of life, one has to keep on fighting for one’s dream.
As Borges said in his writings “there no other virtue than being brave”.
And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.
What is the appeal of traveling and what do you receive from traveling? Are they reflected to your work? Please let us know what does traveling means to you (Eduard, Twitter)
I’m a pilgrim writer and that inevitably appears in the way my characters deals with space.
I’m in constant movement and very often I find that my characters need to equally find themselves in a journey.
I believe that we are constantly experiencing transformation and that’s why we need to let life guide us.
Every day is different, every day can have a magic moment, but we don’t see the opportunity, because we think: ‘Oh this is boring I’m just commuting to work.’
How many interesting people you are missing, just because our parents told us “don’t talk to strangers”?
You must get as much as you can from any journey, because – in the end – the journey is all you have. It doesn’t matter what you accumulate in terms of material wealth, because you are going to die anyway, so why not live?
You have to look at life itself is a pilgrimage. Therefore, start moving, start talking to strangers!
I read Zahir recently. I could not understand clearly though that what do u think should be done to avoid making this relationship so monotonous. What are your views on what is Marriage? (question by Shipra)
How to keep our relations out of monotony is a very personal thing.
In regards to the situation you mention in The Zahir, what enabled the main character to finally re-live his passion for his wife was her absence.
I will quote here one of my favorite writers, Khalil Gibran, on the subject of marriage since I think he expressed really beautifully what marriage is:
“You were born together,
and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings
of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the
silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between
the shores of your souls.
And stand together, yet not too near together.
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress
grow not in each other’s shadow.”
You have probably reached many of your goals for your life and many of your dreams must have already come true. What is an example of a dream or goal that you are still working towards and hoping will come true? (question by Ushani)
A ] to learn how to dance well (from a 1 to 10 scale, I would say I am 2)
B] to learn how to play guitar ( from the same scale, I am definitely 1)
C] spend three months in a monastery, totally isolated from the world ( I already talked to the abbot three years ago, but I am always postponing)
D] a safari in Africa (politically incorrect, of course)
E] to sponsor a good boxer (I know it sounds politically incorrect, as the previous item, but boxing for me is the ultimate body dialogue)
F] to learn boxing myself
G] being in orbit circling the planet (the Russians are making a business out of it, but I never actually sought the information out)
H] to have dinner with Nelson Mandela (this one I tried, but I did not manage so far)
I] to fly a Mirage (as a passenger, of course)
While writing this list, I realized that I did most of the things I wanted (the most recent being a 9.280 kms train journey from Moscow to Vladivostok, in 2006 – theme of my new book, ALEPH ).
How do you make peace with a negative past and with those who have wronged you? (By Alex)
In order to move from the past to the present you need to accept your scars. But you need to do everything in your power in order to heal them so that the ghosts of your past will no longer barge in your present life.
It is a long and difficult process I grant you – but it’s a way out of guilt and hatred in my eyes.
How does one keep enthusiasm, especially when you meet people who are well.. scary and mean? (By Gina)
It’s normal that we don’t always keep our enthusiasm in front of obstacles. Indeed some people truly make an effort in destroying our plans and hopes and so they appear as evil.
But in these moments, if you are able to remind yourself of the reason of your actions and also see that those that are committed in creating pain around them are actually their first victims – then you may at least find an extra dose of consolation in your path. Ally yourself with those that wish you the best and don’t give strength to those that want to see you down. Don’t even grant them the right to be called your “enemies”.
How do you stop sadness? (By Nuri)
By welcoming it and living it intensively for a determined amount of period. In my case I give myself three days to be completely submersed in this feeling.
Once I’ve let sadness pay me a visit, then I kindly ask it to leave. Sadness is then satisfied and leaves.
What does fate have to do with our Personal Legend? (by Mike)
There’s an important difference between blind fate and the path of the personal legend. When we speak of fate, man’s free will is absent: we are merely puppets in the hands of a cold and distant puppeteer.
In the case of personal legend, there’s the dimension of mission. This means that the person has to actively wish to thread down the path that will enable her to flourish. It is a difficult path, there are many obstacles, but it’s the person’s choice. There is always the possibility for us to turn our backs to our personal legend.
Can the heart be wrong? (by Antonya)
How will you judge that? With your mind? If you do this, you will always find ways to discredit your heart. But these are illusions.
Think of your heart as an instrument that goes beyond the typical right and wrong views. Your heart will always be your north star in life – as long as you listen to it and give it a chance to talk to you.
If the Universe says No, sometimes more than once, to something you really want, what do you do? (by Angie)
If your wish is deep-rooted in your soul, persist. If not – the Universe is simply echoing your inner turmoil.
Always ask yourself how far are you able to go in the path of your dreams. Only when you are capable of answering that question will you be able to move forward.
But don’t forget: to enjoy the rainbow, you must also enjoy the rain
When you were 17 your parents had sent you to an asylum because they thought you were psychotic. And now you are the world’s biggest-selling novelist! How has been the journey? (from Katya)
My parents locked me up three times in a lunatic asylum. The reasons in my medical files are banal. It was said that I was isolated, hostile and miserable at school.
I was not crazy but I was rather just a 17-year-old who really wanted to become a writer. Because no one understood this, I was locked up for months and fed with tranquilizers. The therapy merely consisted of giving me electroshocks. They were intended to clear the uppermost layer of my memory in order to bring peace to my head.
I promised to myself that one day I would write about this experience, so young people will understand that we have to fight for our own dreams from a very early stage of our lives. The message in “Veronika decides to die” is that: dare to be different.
You are unique, and you have to accept you as you are, instead of trying to repeat other people’s destinies or patterns. Insanity is to behave like someone that you are not.
Normality is the capacity to express your feelings. From the moment that you don’t fear to share your heart, you are a free person.
I was a rebel. I was opposite everything, and that is actually a good thing to be when you are young of age. My parents tried to make me behave properly. They tried everything, from threats to complaining about how much I let them down, but nothing worked.
They thought they had lost control, and said to themselves: “He is mad. He wants to be an artist”. And then they committed me to this institution and I learned at very young age that I had to fight.
I chose not to look at myself as a victim but thought “ Paulo, now you are experiencing the difficulties that real artists actually should experience.”
When and where the duty of an writer finishes? (from Nuria)
For a period of my life, I was too busy, fighting for my own chance. Then, for another period, I could see – In my case – the light at the end of the tunnel. However, at this time I did not have money to help the others to fight for their dreams. In 1995 I earned enough money to start a project, so I chose to:
a] support the children, the future of my country, giving them the same opportunity that I had as for education and love
b] support people who do not have enough money to live, so they only survive.
Today I invest up to 300.000 USDollars a year in these two projects. I could invest more, but there is a problem of physical space: we work in a “favela” ( a shanty town ) close to my apt., in five different houses, taking care of 310 children. We need three more houses to take care of another 200, and, although I have money to expand the project, there are no places to rent or sell in this area, so we are waiting for the first opportunity to do this. I also use my “influence”, as much as I can to get things from the govt., like credits for new projects developed by these people, basic sanitary needs, etc. You can see some of these children in the photo above.
However, I only contribute with money and some sporadic visits to the places. The anonymous heroes and heroines, who are there all day long, working hard, are the ones who deserve the honors. Without them, my money would be useless. The great warrior Isabella Maltarolli is also in the photo above
Do you need a lot of time between books? Do you need time for a story to live in your imagination? (from Hadrian )
Actually, when I’m not writing I dedicate myself completely to live. I don’t seek stories or anything of the sort. I simply enable myself to be immersed in life – this way I know that somewhere along the line a novel will take hold. But I can’t force this.
Have you ever thought of writing a sequel for the Alchemist? (from Adam )
No – for me a book has a beginning and an end. It has never crossed my mind to write a sequel to any of my books.
Are all the feelings that guide you through your books the same ones that resonate in your life? (from Paloma)
The feeling that guides me through my books is the need to share. In this perspective others are essential. As a writer I cannot write a book while being isolated from people. Books only emerge from this interaction.