Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August 1947. He has led a very intense life. Before he became internationally known and a worldwide bestseller, he had to overcome many obstacles. As a teenager, he had to face the brutality of electric shock treatment in the psychiatric hospital where his parents, who took his rebelliousness as a sign of madness, interned him three times between 1966 and 1968. As a member of the esoteric underworld, he was put in prison for alleged subversive activities against the Brazilian dictatorship and subjected to physical torture.
Later, Paulo joined forces with rock star Raul Seixas and, as a hippie, was very much part of the age of "love and peace" and "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll". Together they composed 120 songs (between 1973 and 1982) that revolutionized Brazilian rock music; some of which are hits today. Hérica Marmo has described that period of his life in his book, The Magician's Song: Paulo Coelho's Musical Career, published in 2007. Hippie, journalist, rock star, actor, playwright, theatre director and producer of television programs, this whirlwind life came to an end in 1982, during a trip to Europe. In Dachau and later in Amsterdam, Paulo had a mystical meeting with "J", his new mentor, who persuaded him to walk the Road to Santiago de Compostela, a medieval pilgrim's route between France and Spain.
In 1986, at the age of 38, Paulo Coelho walked the Road to Santiago, and it was there that he reconverted to Christianity and found again the faith bequeathed to him by the Jesuit fathers of his school years. He would later describe this experience in his first book, The Pilgrimage, published in 1987. The following year, his second book, The Alchemist, established his worldwide reputation. The novel has already achieved the status of a universally admired modern classic. This story, considered to be timeless by many, is set to enchant and inspire whole generations of future readers.
Subsequent books were Brida (1990), O Dom Supremo: The Gift (1991), The Valkyries (1992), Maktub (1994), By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1994), The Fifth Mountain (1996), Love Letters from a Prophet (1997), The Manual of the Warrior of Light (1997), Veronika Decides to Die (1998) and The Devil and Miss Prym (2000). Among his recent novels are Eleven Minutes – bestselling fiction title worldwide in 2003 –, The Zahir (2005), Like the Flowing River (2006), The Witch of Portobello (2006), The Winner Stands Alone (2008), Aleph (2010) and Manuscript found in Accra (2012).
He has received numerous prestigious international awards. The critics have praised his poetic, realistic and philosophical style, and the symbolic language that does not speak to our minds, but to our hearts. He has been a member of the prestigious Brazilian Academy of Letters since 2002.
His followers value and esteem him for his awareness of the problems in the world, his spirituality, his probity of character, his wisdom, but most of all, for his ability to speak to everybody. Paulo Coelho is an advocate of multiculturalism through his work with UNESCO as a Special Counsellor for Intercultural Dialogues and Spiritual Convergences. The author was appointed a United Nations Messenger of Peace in September 2007 and this will allow him to continue to promote intercultural dialogue and to focus on the needs of children.
Paulo Coelho received the 2009 Guinness World Record for the Most Translated Author for the same book (The Alchemist). Moreover, he holds the Guinness World Record for the Most Translations (53) of a Single Title (The Alchemist) Signed in One Sitting (45 minutes). The record was achieved as a result of an international book-signing held at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2003. Furthermore, Paulo Coelho was the second most influential celebrity on Twitter in 2010 according to Forbes and he is the writer with the highest number of social media followers.
The man behind the author loves reading, travelling, computers, the Internet, music, football, walking, and practicing Kyudo – a kind of meditative archery. He has always been interested in cinema and in 2008 worked on his first film project called the Experimental Witch. Every morning, he wakes early and, after a two-hour walk, shoots 24 arrows using one of his three bows. He and his wife Christina Oiticica divide their lives between Rio de Janeiro and Europe.