The life timeline of a
transgressive and visionary author
Paulo Coelho is born on August 24, 1947, in Río de Janeiro. He quickly shows great precociousness when speaking and walking earlier than expected.
His First Years
During his childhood, he begins to tell and make up stories at school and is awarded his first writing and composition prizes. Despite this, and during this time, he doesn’t stand out in any special way in his studies.
Shortly before entering a prestigious school, he spends a summer at a military camp to fortify his body and discipline.
At twelve years old, he begins to write a diary where he bears witness to his experiences and feelings.
As a great admirer of the renowned Brazilian author Jorge Amado, at fourteen, Paulo firmly decides to become an influential and famous writer.
A Troubled Adolescence
Given his troubled and rebellious character, at seventeen his parents commit him to an asylum. He’s subjected to electroshock therapy. These difficult experiences were the base of his novel Veronika Decides to Die, which raises the fundamental question of what madness is. In the attempt to provide an outlet for his literary calling, he begins to write regular articles on different subjects:
drugs, hallucinations, esotericism, and paranormal phenomena. Allowing himself to be carried away by his artistic streak and attracted to the stage, he begins to work in the theater world, writing, acting, and directing his own plays.
A Rebel in Search of his Own Path
During this decade, Paulo lives an intense life, completely immersed in the hippie philosophy and culture, which introduces him to the world of drugs and experiences that make him live on the edge, surrendering to all kinds of excesses.
Like many other young people at the start of this decade, with only twenty dollars in his pocket and a backpack, he sets out to travel the world and embarks on a long journey that takes him to Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and, later, a bus trip across all of the United States.
He slowly distances himself from the Christian religion and begins to take interest in studying other spiritual avenues. Gathering his main life experiences, he starts to take his first steps as a writer and manages to publish some books.
His encounter with Raul Seixas, at the time an emerging rock idol in Brazil with whom he would start Sociedade Alternativa, brings him success and money in the world of music as a songwriter, producer, and later, a record executive. Fame and drugs place Paulo on the brink of the abyss.
Considered subversive and dangerous by the military dictatorship due to his lyrics, he’s arrested several times (once snatched in the middle of the street) and likely tortured in the police precinct itself. In his novel Hippie, Paulo narrates his imprisonment in first person and describes the tortures he received.
After living with different women, practicing free love, and jumping from one lover to the next for some years, he finally finds love with Christina Oiticica, his current wife and woman of his life.
The Writer’s Journey to his Great Work
He leaves his job as record director at Polygram to travel Europe (from Romania to Norway) with Christina.
In Germany, he visits the Dachau concentration camp, where he has a vision that will later be his teacher in the Order of R.A.M.
Following his teacher’s advice, at thirty-nine, he decides to walk the Way of St. James, where he has a revelation. After his stay in Spain, he writes The Pilgrimage, a novel that narrates his experiences during the journey down this mystical path of self-discovery.
The Alchemist’s Success
After some initial setbacks, he manages to finally publish The Alchemist, his most emblematic work, which launches him into fame, turning him into a worldwide publishing phenomenon and one of the most read and influential authors of our time.
One of the most influential writers of our time, Paulo is the author of 30 international bestsellers, including Brida, Veronika Decides to Die, Manual of the Warrior of Light, Eleven Minutes and Adultery. He is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and a United Nations Messenger of Peace. Paulo is the recipient of 115 international prizes and awards, among them, the Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur.