TO sell more than 100 million copies worldwide, to be translated into 69 languages in 150 countries in one’s lifetime is a heartening experience for an author. And yet, Paulo Coelho, the man who achieved this, has remained much of a mystery. The biography of Coelho by Fernando Morais attempts at unraveling some of that mystery. Morais’s task has been hugely helped by the meticulous dairy habit of Coelho.
So what makes Coelho connect to readers? The answer to that seems to lie in his life. No vice escaped him. Drinking, drugs and women were part of his growing up years. Added to this was the trauma of being admitted to the mental asylum by his parents, where he received shock treatments. He had seen it all and he wrote from his experiences that made him the man he is today. Religion and faith provided the anchor for him and the woman he married (his second wife) gave him a stability that he had not enjoyed before.
Despite his successes world over and the growing acclamation and fan following he was not given his due share of recognition in his native land. Brazil’s literary circles lampooned his book and the government too did not acknowledge his increasing influence among the larger population of the country. When the Ministry of Education let it be known that his books may be included in the reading section in the curriculum, a cartoon was carried in a publication showing a student with donkey’s ears carrying a copy of The Pilgrimage. The government ignored his name while sending a delegation of writers to prestigious international literary meet in Paris. It is another matter that Coelho had been invited there by the publisher and was signing autographs on his books for hours to the ever lengthening queue of people. Coelho has broken several world records for being on top of the chart of bestsellers.
Not every man can be a Boswell to Johnson. Even then, the biography by Morais largely ends as a chronological account of the author’s life. A little more insight into the mind of the living legend could have added value to the narrative of an interesting life.
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