Paulo Coelho

portrait of Paulo Coelho
Portrait by Xavier Gonzalez (17 July 2003)

Born: 24 August 1947, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Coelho, pronounced POW-loo koo-ELL-yoo, attended a Jesuit school and wanted to be writer from an early age. His deep introspection and opposition to his parents desires for him to pursue a traditional career led them to commit him to a mental institution when he was seventeen. He escaped three times and was released at age twenty. He assented to his parents wishes and entered law school but quit in a year to wander as a hippie, exploring South America, North Africa, and Europe, thoroughly immersed in the drug culture of the '60s. When he returned to Brazil he became a very successful lyricist. In 1974 he was arrested and tortured by the military government for "subversive" activities. Always a Catholic, he walked over 500 miles across northern Spain on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1986, a spiritual turning point he addresses in The Pilgrimage (1987). His next book, The Alchemist (1988) was a flop with the original publisher, but after moving to Harper Collins for Brida (1990) the The Alchemist became a Brazilian best seller. It has now been published in 71 languages and sold over 65 million copies. Coelho crosses cultural boundaries, no other living author has been more widely translated and the two countries where he has the highest market penetration, having at least one of his books in every 4.5 homes, are Iran and Israel, according to the author in a 2007 interview with Riz Khan on Aljazeera. He has been at odds with his publisher over file sharing, he feels that it promotes his books (after a Russian translation of one of his books was posted online, his sales in Russia increased from 3,000 to one million in the span of three years), while the publisher prefers to sell every copy. In a compromise, one novel at a time will be available to read on the publisher's website.

Biography from Wikipedia and Paulo Coelho Books blog

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