Jan 172014

It’s one thing when you read a book, but when you hear the author talking about it it puts a completely different perspective to it.

Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist in 1988, over 25 years ago, and it’s still as fresh and inspiring as it was back then. Still, he isn’t sure what exactly is the secret to its success. In the interviews he gave to The New York Times and Metro.co.uk he says:

Your most famous book, “The Alchemist,” has sold 65 million copies worldwide. Does its continuing success surprise you?

Of course. It’s difficult to explain why. I think you can have 10,000 explanations for failure, but no good explanation for success.

Why has The Alchemist done so well?

That’s the one-million-dollar question. I honestly don’t know. It’s a metaphor for my own life and by writing about it I touched a nerve with other people. It’s the most translated book by a living author. I could never dream it would be that widely read.  I don’t know why and I don’t care to know – it would break the magic.

In the short interview below Coelho explains what he meant with the famous quote from The Alchemist: “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream”:

And in the interview for GoodReads.com, one of the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations, he talks more about how he feels about religion and spirituality:

The message of The Alchemist, and many of your other books, transcends the definitions of a single religion. Is it one of your goals to provoke inter-faith dialogue?

It’s important to distinguish between religion & spirituality. I am Catholic, so religion for me is a way of having discipline and collective worship with persons who share the same mystery.

But in the end all religions tend to point to the same light. In between the light and us, sometimes there are too many rules. Some of these rules are important, others should not blind us, do not diminish the intensity of this light, the soul of the world.

For me, literature and spirituality are the same. In my first book, The Pilgrimage, I wrote about my real journey, my true story.

You see, during my pilgrimage it became increasingly apparent that I wasn’t happy and I had to do something about it – stop making excuses. I realized that you don’t have to jump through a series of complicated hoops to achieve a goal. You can just look at a mountain and get a connection with God; you don’t have to understand the mountain to feel that.

When I first got back from the trip it was an anti-climax. I found it hard to acclimatize to my normal life and I was impatient to change my life immediately. But changes happen when you’re ready. It took a few months to realize that I must solely concentrate on writing a book, rather than trying to fill various roles as I had before. The pilgrimage was to be my subject and as I started I took my first step towards my dream.

And here’s Coelho talking about his life – his experiences ranging from travelling the world as a hippie, discovering the mystic side of life, to being tortured in jail as a dissident and becoming one of the most famous authors of today:

How high is The Alchemist on your list of favorite books?

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