Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, is a prolfic fiction writer, blogger, and songwriter, and an enduring Brazilian cultural icon.

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Paulo Coelho at a ConferenceThe best-selling Portuguese language author of all time, he has written thirty books, three of which are autobiographical (The Pilgrimage, The Valkyries, and Aleph), but all of which deal with his life experiences in one way or another. He is also a noted advocate of peer-to-peer file sharing, and has been named a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations.

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History
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Coelho was born into an upper middle class family in Rio, that did not approve of his professed desire to become a writer. His strange behavior and opposition to a traditional career led them to commit him to a mental institution at the age of 16, from which he was released at age 20. Following a year of law school, he traveled the world for several years, living a hippy lifestyle.

Upon his return to Brazil he found work as a songwriter, working with such recording greats as Elis Regina, Rita Lee, and Raul Seixas. Some of his work led him to run afoul of Brazil's military dictatorship, which viewed some of his lyrical content as subversive and dangerous. In 1986, on a the 500-mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, Coelho had a spiritual awakening, and decided to become a writer.

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Cultural Impact
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The Alchemist, Paulo CoelhoCoelho's most critically acclaimed and best-selling work is The Alchemist, which tells the story of an Andalusian shepherd named Santiago who, beset by recurring dreams of finding treasure in Egypt, sets of on a lengthy journey. As is often the case, the story ends up revolving around what he finds out about himself along the way.

The Alchemist has been described as a metaphor for life and as spinning an excellent and charming tale with its sparse narrative. While Coelho has mostly published novels, he has also written essays, newspaper columns, and more didactic materials as well. Several of Coelho's works have been turned into films or are currently in development.

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