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Immortal at Last

 Immortal at Last

many readers complained that they could not find his books
in Portuguese that Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, one of the
world’s bestselling authors, took an unheard of
decision: he put all of his 10 books online. For free.
Kirsten Weinoldt

When the ABL, Academia Brasileira
de Letras, on October 28, 2002, chose
Paulo Coelho as the newest member of its
body of Brazilian writers, it raised more
than a few eyebrows. Although translated
into 56 languages and with a stunning sale
ofmore than 53 million books, many critics
find him light weight and only borderline
literary. However, there is no doubt of his
domestic and international success. He
ranks among the ten best selling authors in
the world. It is certainly of interest to take
a closer look at this man, who has so many
devotees and opponents.
“I believe in the concept of ‘anima
mundi’ (soul of the world), where each
person, through total dedication to what he
does, comes into contact with the inspiration
of the universe.”
Paulo Coelho, a native Carioca (from
Rio), was born on August 14, 1947. In
school he won a poetry prize, and at the age
of 17, he announced his intention to become
a writer. His parents were very opposed
to his decision, partly because of the
state of censorsh ip under the military dictatorship
at the time, which often persecuted
artists and intellectuals. Many of his contemporaries
suffered imprisonment and
torture for their opinions. Because of his
rebellious behavior, his parents had him
committed to a mental institution, where he
received shock treatment. He escaped, but
was brought back three times.
In the sixties, Paulo Coelho was an
active participant in the counterculture of
Brazil, experimenting with drugs and hanging
out with rock musicians.
While still in his twenties, he achieved
his goal of becoming a writer and worked
as a playwright, theater director, journalist,
and song writer—writing songs for Elis
Regina and Raul Seixas.
In 1974, in Coelho’s own words, “his
life collapsed.” He was arrested three times
that year, the first time as an innocent
bystander at a bank robbery, the second
time for speaking out against the establishment
at a pop concert. After he was released
by the police, he was arrested a third
time by paramilitaries who tortured him for
a week.
Later in the seventies, he became an
artistic director for CBS in Brazil.
In 1979, however, he was
suddenly fired without any explanation.
The next two years
were spent trying to get back into
the music industry.
In the eighties, he went to
Europe trying his luck there. He
became acquainted with a Catholic
sect dating back to 1492, which
studies the language of symbols:
RAM—Regnus Agnus Mundi.
He progressed within the sect
— and attained the rank of magus. In
1986, on instructions from his mentor within
RAM, Paulo Coelho went on a pilgrimage
to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain.
Inspired by his trip, he wrote The Pilgrimage
about his experiences on the ‘Road
of Santiago.’ Then, in 1988 came the book
that would make him internationally known,
0 Alquimista – The Alchemist, considered
by many his classic work. It tells the story
of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy,
who dreams of traveling the world to find
treasure and sets out to realize his dream.
Like most of his works, it attempts to tackle
fundamental questions relating to the human
condition—good versus evil, joy and
despair, light and dark. It is a story about
following one’s destiny and being open to
the universe of signs and symbols.
0 Alquimista became a best seller—
number one in 29 countries—and has gone
on to sell over 11 million copies around the
world. His books have since been translated
into 56 languages and published in
more than 150 countries. According to
Publishing Trends magazine, The Alchemist
was one of the top ten international
bestsellers of 1998. Paulo Coelho has won
more than 15 international awards for his
writing, including the prized French award,
the Insignia of Arts and Letters in 1996.
His writing has been praised by one
critic, according to Paulo Coelho’s own
website, for its “symbolic language that
does not speak to our brains, but to our
hearts” and others have especially praised
his poetic, realistic, and philosophical style.
And certainly, the public has proved its
loyalty by buying his books in droves.
The Times in the U.K. describes his
books as ‘life enchanting,’ but critics in
general tend to be more dismissive of the
simplicity of his work, suggesting that he
“panders to the lowest common denominator
of new age gullibility,” according to
another British paper, The Guardian.
All of his books use symbols, dreams,
and archetypes to convey simple but universal
truths. Before starting a new book,
he looks for a white feather. As he prints out
the first draft, he touches the plume to each
The Academy dates back to ancient
Greece, the year 387 B.C., near Athens,
where the philosopher Plato founded the
school dedicated to the muses and the hero
Akademos. There, the teachings were informal
through lessons and dialogues
among the masters and the disciples. The
philosopher intended to unite contributions
from diverse areas of knowledge such as
philosophy, mathematics, music, astronomy,
and the law. The young followers
gave continuity to this work, which came to
constitute one of the most important chapters
of the history of western knowledge.
The school consisted of a library, a residence,
and a garden.
Looking up the word in the Aurelio
dictionary of the Portuguese language we
have our first contact with the origin of the
term and its multiple contemporary meanings.
But what interests us here is underlining
its ninth definition: in Brazil, when we
refer simply to Academia, we’re talking
about the Academia Brasileira de Letras.
That achievement in day-to-day lingo transforming
the Academia de Letras into
Academia par excellence, owes itself to its
history, which along its hundred years of
existence has succeeded, among its members,
authors who contributed to the formation
of Brazilian literature, literary and
historical critics, social scientists, journalists,
politicians, and scientists, whose work
and professional life constitute a reference
to their respective areas of excellence.
The creation of the Academia was the
idea of a group of young writers realizing
the initial proposals of Llicio Mendonca
and Medeiros e Albuquerque. In 1896,
successive meetings in the editorial office
of Revista Brasileira, then under the leadership
ofJose Verissimo, assumed the preparatory,
formative sessions. On the 15th of
December, Machado de Assis was named
president of the Academia Brasileira de
Letras, and this had its leadership and its
statutes defined on the 28th of January,
Paulo Coelho was elected for chair
number 21 of the Academy—originally
occupied by black abolitionist Jose do
Patrocinio—on the 25th of July, 2002. He
received 22 votes against the 15 obtained
by the other candidate, sociologist Hello
Jaguaribe. The swearing-in of the writer
was the third of the Academy of the year.
Already sworn in were the jurist Raymundo
Faoro, who holds chair number 6, and the
writer Zelia Gattai, who succeeded her
husband, the late Jorge Amado, in chair
number 23.
The vote for Paulo Coelho into the
ABL had one ofthe largest registered quorums
in the history of the institution. In
order to be a candidate for the vacancy, the
writer had total support and incentive from
another immortal: the academic Arnaldo
When he first heard about the nomination,
Paulo Coelho responded to the many
critics, who find him less than literary and
stated that “the Brazilian people knows
how to choose.”
Before taking possession ofthe chair at
the ABL, he spoke about the upcoming
ceremony and how the reading audience
had made its choice. “Contrary to what
people say,” referring to the election of
Lula for the presidency of the Republic,
and to the critics who call him a bad writer
in spite of having sold over 50 million
copies around the world, according to his
calculations, “I see the election with optimism
and have confidence in the people,
who know how to choose, contrary to what
people say, because a large part of the
critics who did not like my work, are the
people who don’t know how to choose or
buy books.”
He classified the electoral process as a
“show of democracy.” He did not reveal his
vote and praised the eight years ofFernando
Henrique’s government. “He is a president
the future will see as being just.” With the
ceremony, scheduled for 9 pm, he said he
would be able to “expose more” of his soul
and his sentiments in the sessions at the
ABL. “I always participated in the political
process, though not openly. The primary is
with relation to the image of Brazil in the
exterior, which is absolutely twisted.”
Coelho, who maintains an institute for
320 children in Copacabana, where he
lives, says that the fact that he is a celebrity,
obligates him to have a political point of
view. “I cannot change my country, my
state, my city, or my neighborhood, but I
can change my block,” he said.
The writer explained that the choice of
the Dia de So Judas Tadeu, known as the
saint of the impossible, for the ceremony
does not relate to the criticisms he receives.
“He is the patron of possible causes, because
I believe that everything you ask for
will come true.”
Posing for photos with the group before
assuming the chair, something most academics
refrain from doing, he anticipated
passages of his discourse, in which he
would quote Vinicius de Moraes, Gertrude
Stein, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The day of the induction, with a discourse
that exalted utopia and faith, Paulo
Coelho, 55, the youngest immortal of the
Academy spoke about other occupants of
the seat, such as the economist Roberto
Campos, and quoted his old partner, Raul
Seixas, the late singer. Coelho recollected
a visit he made to the ABL when he was a
“What was a utopia of adolescence
became, at the beginning of the 90’s, a true
heresy. But, with some heresies, this too
was transformed into reality. I fought for
that dream, confided in my friends, fought
the good fight and maintained the faith. I
learned with Jorge Amado that utopias are
The gala was one ofthe most elegant of
the Academy and attended by scores of
dignitaries and members of the Academy.
At the beginning and the end of his
speech, Coelho quoted a phrase from Saint
Paul “Sic transit gloria mundi” (the glory of
the world is transitory). He also made references
to composer and poet Vinicius de
Moraes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and
Malba Tahan. Speaking of Raul Seixas, he
declared that the musician “well describes
the happiness in the heart of the warriors,
when he writes: I prefer being a walking
metamorphosis to having that old formed
opinion about everything.”
He also referred to his predecessor in
chair 21, economist Roberto Campos, and
remembered how when he was young, he
protested against “his economic politics”
and later came to admire him. The author
quoted a phrase by Campos “the violence
of the arrow dignifies the target.” And
added: “Many times, in moments when I
felt judged with excessive severity by the
critics, I recalled that phrase. And I remembered
the dream that I wasn’t ready to give
up: to one day be a member ofthe Academia
Brasileira de Letras.
The Paulo Coelho website is a generous
collection ofinformation and free downloads
in a number of languages. For instance,
in Portuguese, fans can download
the entire version of0Alquimista, 92 pages.
In English the download possibilities are a
little more limited, but perhaps that is just a
matter of time. One can also email Mr.
Coelho, and someone actually answers
questions. A prompt and friendly answer
arrived a few hours after the undersigned
requested permission to use excerpts from
the website for this article, and the request
was granted. The following is the prologue
of The Alchemist downloaded from the
The Alchemist picked up a book that someone
in the caravan had brought. Leafing through
the pages, he found a story about Narcissus.
The Alchemist knew the legend ofNarcissus, a
youth who daily knelt beside a lake to contemplate
his own beauty. He was so fascinated by
himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake
and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower
was born, which was called the narcissus. But
this was not how the author of the book ended
the story.
He said that when Narcissus died, the Goddesses
of the Forest appeared and found the
lake, which had been fresh water, transformed
into a lake of salty tears.
“Why do you weep?” the Goddesses asked.
“I weep for Narcissus,” the lake replied.
“Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for
Narcissus,” they said, “for though we always
pursued him in the forest, you alone could
contemplate his beauty close at hand.”
“But…. Was Narcissus beautiful?” the lake
“Who better than you to know that?” the
Goddesses said in wonder, “After all, it was by
your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate
himselfl !”
The lake was silent for some time.
Finally it said:
“I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed
that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because,
each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see,
in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty
“What a lovely story,” the alchemist thought.
The website appears, in addition to
Portuguese, in Spanish, English, Italian,
French, Russian, German, Farsi, Japanese,
Polish, Romanian, Chinese, Czech, and
Arabic. That makes it a widely readable
website for the majority of the world population.
It includes a biography, books for
free download, a photo section, meditations—
a section with thought provoking
and calming quotes for personal, quiet
moments. It also lists Coelho’s books as
well as the different editions, a TV online
section with footage from a variety of television
appearances by the author, and the
agenda for the author with his appearances
around the world.
There is a section of FAQ (frequently
asked questions), a chapter describing the
Paulo Coelho Institute, its purpose and
charter as well as information on how to
support the institution with money or computers.
There is press information for those
whose intention it is to write about Paulo
Coelho and his work. A chapter called
Road to Santiago outlines the road Coelho
himself took on his pilgrimage. And for
those who want to send a literary e-card to
someone, a multitude of photos of the
author will make for a welcome card to any
fan ofhis. For anyone new to the writings of
Paulo Coelho, this website gives a diversity
of knowledge about the man and his work.
What other People Have to Say:
If diverse commentary about a person
is a sign of greatness, then certainly Paulo
Coelho is great There is hardly anyone in
Brazil, who doesn’t have a strong opinion
about him and a willingness to utter it.
From Rodrigo Zavala at Folha online
we find the following:
“For almost a decade, I have heard
literary critics touting the ‘magician’ Paulo
Coelho as a fraud. Others don’t even stoop
to mentioning him in their columns in the
cultural publications, according to the old
saying that ‘you don’t kick a dead dog.’
And, when questioned about the growing
popularity of Coelho, they are categorical:
“We’re talking about popular cretinism.”
Be that as it may, the cretinism appears
to have arrived at the cultural elite. Elected
to chair number 21 at the Academia
Brasileira de Letras, Coelho had 22 votes
while his adversary, sociologist Hello
Jaguaribe, received 15 votes. In spite of the
‘dreadful literature’ he has become a reference
in the country.
Popular composer converted to writer
against the media, Paulo Coelho reflects
his own literary, contemporary image—
easy, superstitious, and consoling. Writing,
in which the verb to satisfy suffocates
the rest—educate, entertain, transform—
in the practice of imagery. In the triumph of
the majority, who loses is the quality of the
formation of the people.
One cannot deny that the work of Paulo
Coelho is competent material for entertainment.
Finally, it is an international success,
contrary to what happens to the books of
Carlos He itor Cony, who always found ‘the
magician’ deplorable.
At a time in which the Thinker (o
Pensador) is Gabriel, literature and the
ABL appear to have forgotten their role.
In the era of the sound-byte, it is only
appropriate to provides bytes of a different
kind, namely those excerpts from articles
about Paulo Coelho and his works from
around the world that describe how people
feel about him.
“The success of Coelho’s works [in
Poland] is due to his extraordinary ability
of presenting the everlasting problems of
humanity using simple literary symbols. It
is also because of the fact that every reader
easily recognizes the spiritual closeness of
the heroes.” Magazyn Literacki [Literary
Magazine], Poland, 12-13 October 2002
“The books ofthe Brazilian writer have
made “magic realism” probably the most
fashionable literary trend of a year.” Expert,
Russia, September 2002
“His success is an edition phenomenon,
the most astonishing success in the
latest years.” Le Monde, France, March
“One of the few to deserve the term
publishing phenomenon.” The Independent
on Sunday, England, March 1998
“Paulo Coelho proposes in his books a
model for individual spiritual search, stressing
the great concerns of modern mankind.”
Le Courier de L ‘Unesco, France,
March 1998
“Brazil Wizard makes books disappear
from stores.” The New York Times, US,
December 1999
“Paulo Coelho writes books that capture
the world.” Neue Zuricher Zeitung,
Switzerland, August 1998
“As to the foreign literature, it is represented
only by one author. But in five
books, four of which take four uppermost
lines of a rating. “Brazilian Magus” Paulo
Coelho, for a long time already subdued
Moscow, begins the triumphal procession
on cities and villages of Russia…. Only
because there were just five books by Paulo
Coelho published…. Some places in our
rating remained for the Russian writers.”
Kommersant-Weekend, Russia, November
“Paulo Coelho represents the legend of
a wise storyteller.” Corriere della sera,
Italy September 1995
“Paulo Coelho has, for a long time,
been more than an average bestselling author.
He is a global phenomenon, and mere
logic can’t explain the impact he makes.
With Coelho the boundaries between reality
and magic are dissolving—this trademark
puts him in the same league with the
very best of the South American literary
tradition.” Profil, Austria, February 2000
“Paulo Coelho exhibits an amazing virtue
of transparency that makes his writing
like a fresh stream running through a lush
forest, a path of energy that inadvertently
leads readers to themselves, toward their
mysterious and faraway souls.” Figaro
Litteraire, France, May 1994
“By taking in hands Coelho’s book, the
reader is already doomed: He becomes an
alchemist himself” Itogi Magazine, Russia,
September 2002
“Paulo Coelho is an energetic and vital
magician, who—with just a smile—transforms
a rainy afternoon into a bright, sunny
day.” La Republica, Italy, October 2000
“If we thought that those were too big
aspirations for such small book, Coelho
has proved us wrong. From this we can
clearly see that the key to the phenomenon
of Coelho is knowing how to say’the grand
truths with simple words.” El Periodic°,
Spain, March 2000.
“Paulo Coelho’s strength lies undoubtedly
in the fact of his simple, clear and pure
language. Don’t misunderstand: there is
nothing more difficult to do than the simple,
the clear, and the pure.” Le Nouvel
Observateur, France, May 1998
“The simplicity of Coelho’s prose is
very far from customary style of various
samples ofmodern prose, where the primitiveness
of ideas is packed into a motley
fabric ofeloquence.”NezavisimoyaGazeta,
Russia, September 2002
“Paulo Coelho is the favorite writer of
sports champions according to a survey in
L ‘Equipe.” Le Journal du dimanche,
France, June 1998
“In this hard time for books, we have to
admit that Coelho is one of the few authors
who are able to stimulate people to turn off
the TV and pick up a book.” Vecernji List,
Croatia, January 2000
“In Chile, as in so many other parts of
the world, the writer Paulo Coelho has
become without doubt, a true publishing
phenomenon.” La Nacion, Chile, April
“Paulo gives his readers a hint to find
pleasure in life.” AnAn, Japan, March 2001
“I have never seen such a long line, and
I only wish that the day will come that
people will stand in line like this for an
Israeli author.” EriStematzky, owner ofthe
biggest chain of bookstores in Israel, October
“Two thousand visitors patiently waited
for the autograph of one writer, in a country
where book print-runs are measured only
by the hundreds.” Slobodna Dalmacija,
Croatia, March 2000
“Coelho does not so much address his
readers as confide in them. His style is a
kind of eavesdropping, full of lyrical whisperings
and confessional asides.” Sunday
Express, UK, September 1999
“He doesn’t consider himself a spiritual
leader, he doesn’t pretend to change
the course of history nor the mentality of
people, but he doesn’t write only to entertain
either; all his books are an instant and
lasting success.” Para Ti, Argentina, April
“The books of the writer are therapeutic.
They are inspirational. This is something
that I have discovered reading from
The Alchemist to Veronika.” 0
Independente, Portugal, July 1999
“A poetic, realistic and philosophical
style, a symbolic language not talking to
our minds, but to our hearts.” Gazzetta di
Mantova, Italy, September 1999
“In his style, clear and simple and at the
same time philosophic and transcending,
Coelho offers a pile of reflections on the
place of our personal dreams, wisdom, the
battle between the feminine and masculine
aspects of our personality, or a surprising
relation between destiny and personal decisions.”
La Vanguardia, Spain, March
“Coelho, unlike some other authors,
does not write novels which are bought like
relics not to be read… His books are not
status symbols of the modern age, which—
after the first glance—end up on shelves.
Coelho is an author whose books are read,
and whose ideas are practiced by ordinary
people who in this way empower their
spirituality.” Globus Revija, Croatia, March
Over the years, Paulo Coelho has given
countless interviews in a variety of media
all over the world. His literary agent –
www.santjordi-associados.com – has compiled
ideas and statements he has made
about a number of different subjects.
Greatest Virtue
I’m a brave person. He who dares, wins.
Greatest Failure
Lack of Patience
Catalytic Experience
I was close to the universe of madness
Source of Inspiration
Greatest Fear
Speaking in public
Greatest Hope
To carry on with my writing
Next Mountain
The one that happens to be in front of me
The greatest treasure in life
From them one learns love in all its
From them one learns discipline
A treacherous word. The only definition
of truth is the word of Jesus Christ: “You
will know truth, and truth shall set you
The present moment
An abstract notion for a writer
Behind fortune there is always tragedy
Again, a misleading word. People let
themselves get discouraged, not because
things are impossible, but because we
actually want them to be. But nothing is
The most mediocre thing in the world.
I’d rather go by the idea of joy.
Work equals passion
The honesty of the soul
It is not absence of movement, but
absolute concentration
It appears that Mr. Coelho’s inspiration
stems from his involvement in the Regnus
Agnus Mundi and his pilgrimage years
ago. His website dedicates several pages to
this determining event in his life with references
to a multitude ofthings. It seems clear
that he wants to share his experiences and
inspiration with his readers and perhaps
cause some of them to find a new path to
improve their lives.
Under ‘El Camino de Santiago’ on the
website, you will fmd a map—a clickable
map of the Camino by clicking on the
proper icon. A UCLA (University of California,
Los Angeles) icon will take you to
the Course Syllabus for Spanish 122. It is
also possible to join an Internet Discussion
Group on the Pilgrimage to Santiago de
Compostela. Furthermore, one can search
the archives of the Santiago listserv for
historical and practical information on the
Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela as
well as visit the home of the American
Association of Friends of the Road to
Santiago for up-to-date information on the
pilgrimage to Compostela today.
The website contains several links to
UCLA, which has presented several programs
regarding the subject. One is “Program
of the Symposium on the Tomb ofthe
Apostle in Santiago de Compostela,” and
there aro, others. 2002 also saw a UCLA
Summer Study Abroad course on the history,
literature, art, and architecture of the
Camino in France and Spain, called “Pilgrim
Roads to Santiago de Compostela,”
which took place in June and July of last
year. The website advises that ‘new pilgrims
on the Road to Santiago should first
learn about the difficulties of the Journey:’
“Everyone, then, must worship Santiago
in all places, he who comes to the aid of
those who receive him in all places without
delay…. Now we are going to talk about
the Route of the Pilgrims.
“The pilgrim route is a very good thing,
but it is narrow. For the road which leads
man to life is narrow; on the other hand, the
road which leads to death is wide and
spacious. The pilgrim route is for the good
people: the lack of vices, the mortification
of the body, the increase of virtues, pardon
for sins, penitence for the penitent, the road
of the just, love of the saints, faith in the
resurrection and the reward for the blessed,
distancing from Hell, protection of the
Heavens. It takes one away from succulent
foods, makes voracious obesity disappear,
restrains voluptuousness, contains the appetites
of the flesh which attack the fortress
ofthe soul, purifies the spirit, invites man to
the contemplative life, humbles the haughty,
raises up the humble, loves poverty. It hates
the censure of the man dominated by avarice.
It loves, on the other hand, the person
who gives to the poor. It rewards the austere
who do good works; and, on the other hand,
it does not snatch the miserly and sinful
from the talons of sin.”
Translated by John Dagenais
It appears that Paulo Coelho serves up
more than just a passing element of entertainment
to be forgotten when put down
and offers to the reader a tool to shape and
improve—intellectually and spiritually—
his or her individual path in life.
Kirsten Weinoldt was born in
Denmark and came to the U.S. in 1969.
She fell in love with Brazil after seeing
Black Orpheus many years ago and has
lived immersed in Brazilian culture ever
since. Her e-mail: kwracing*erols.com
0 Didrio de um Mago (The Pilgrimage),
1986 – Paulo Coelho’s first book
describes the author’s 1986 pilgrimage,
along the Road to Santiago, in Spain.
0 Alquimista (The Alchemist), 1987
– Sheperd Santiago has a recurring dream:
he must seek out a treasure buried near
the pyramids in Egypt.
Brida (Brida), 1990- The story ofthe
Irish enchantress Brida O’ Fern, and her
path through the Wicca pagan tradition.
0 Dom Supremo (The Gift), 1990 –
Based on the book “The Greatest Thing
in the World”, which discusses St. Paul’s
letter to the Corinthians.
As Valkirias ( The Valkyries ), 1992
– An account ofthe 40 days the author and
his wife, Chris, spend in the Mojave
Desert in California.
Na Margem do Rio Piedra Eu Sentei
e Chorei (By the River Piedra I Sat Down
and Wept), 1994 – The story of a love
encounter between Pilar and a seminarist,
her childhood friend.
O Monte Cinco (The Fifth Mountain),
1996- The exile of prophet Elijah,
who is faced with the Syrian invasion.
O Manual do Guerreiro da Luz
(Manual of the Warrior of the Light),
1996- Selected texts published in newspapers.
Cartas de Amor do Profeta (Love
Letters from a Prophet), 1998 – Love
letters between Lebanese poet Kahlil
Gibran, and American professor Mary
Veronika decide Morrer (Veronika
Decides to Die), 1998—Mental illness as
seen by Veronika, Coelho’s alter ego.
0 Demonio e a Senhorita Ptym (The
Devil and Miss Prym), 2000 — Meditation
on intolerance and terrorism.
Historias de Pais, Filhos e Netos
(Fathers, Sons, and Grandsons), 2001 —
Collection of short stories.
His next project, for 2003, is a “book
about sex”–Onze Minutos (Eleven Minutes),
issue date for which is planned for
Major Prizes
and Decorations:
“Best Fiction Corine International Award
2002 for The Alchemist (Germany
“Club of Budapest Planetary Arts Award
2002” as recognition of his literary
work (Germany 2002).
“Bambi 2001 Award” (Germany 2001)
“XXIII Premio Intemazionale Fregene
(Italy 2001).
“Crystal Mirror Award” (Poland 2000).
“Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la
Legion d’Honneur”(France 1999).
“Crystal Award” World Economic Forum
“Golden Medal ofGalicia” (Spain 1999)
Finalist for “International IMPAC Literary
Award” (Ireland 2000 and
“Comendador de Ordem do Rio Branco”
(Brazil 1998).
“Golden Book” (Yugoslavia ’95, ’96,
’97, ’98, ’99, and 2000).
“Super Grinzane Cavour Book Award”
(Italy 1996)
“Flaiano International Award” (Italy
“Knight of Arts and Letters” (France
“Prix Lectrices d’Elle (France 1995).
Thank You, George,
Thank You
Brazilian bestselling author thanks President Bush
for uniting a fractioned world: “Thank you for allowing
us—an army of anonymous people filling the streets in
an attempt to stop a process that is already underway—
to know what it feels like to be powerless.”
Thank you, great leader George W. Bush.
Thank you for showing everyone what a danger Saddam Hussein represents. Many of us might otherwise have forgotten that
he had used chemical weapons against his own people, against the Kurds and against the Iranians. Hussein is a bloodthirsty
dictator and one of the clearest expressions of evil in today’s world.
But this is not my only reason for thanking you. During the first months of 2003, you have shown the world a great many other
important things and, therefore, deserve my gratitude.
So, remembering a poem I learned as a child, I want to say thank you.
Thank you for showing everyone that the Turkish people and their Parliament are not for sale, not even for 26 billion dollars.
Thank you for revealing to the world the gulf that exists between the decisions made by those in power and the wishes of the
people. Thank you for making it clear that neither Jose Maria Aznar nor Tony Blair give the slightest weight to or show the slightest
respect for the votes they received. Aznar is perfectly capable of ignoring the fact that 90 percent of Spaniards are against the
war, and Blair is unmoved by the largest public demonstration to take place in England in the last 30 years.
Thank you for making it necessary for Tony Blair to go to the British Parliament with a fabricated dossier written by a student
ten years ago, and present this as ‘damning evidence collected by the British Secret Service’.
Thank you for allowing Colin Powell to make a complete fool of himself by.showing the UN Security Council photos which,
one week later, were publicly challenged by Hans Blix, the Inspector responsible for disarming Iraq.
Thank you for adopting your current position and thus ensuring that, at the plenary session, the French Foreign Minister,
Dominique de Villepin’s anti-war speech was greeted with applause—something, as far as I know, that has only happened once
before in the history of the UN, following a speech by Nelson Mandela.
Thank you too, because, after all your efforts to promote war, the normally divided Arab nations, at their meeting in Cairo
during the last week in February, were, for the first time, unanimous in their condemnation of any invasion.
Thank you for your rhetoric stating that “the UN now has a chance to demonstrate its relevance”, a statement which made
even the most reluctant countries take up a position opposing any attack on Iraq.
Thank you for your foreign policy which provoked the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, into declaring that in the 21st
century, “a war can have a moral justification”, thus causing him to lose all credibility.
Thank you for trying to divide a Europe that is currently struggling for unification; this was a warning that will not go unheeded.
Thank you for having achieved something that very few have so far managed to do in this century: the bringing together of
millions of people on all continents to fight for the same idea, even though that idea is opposed to yours.
Thank you for making us feel once more that though our words may not be heard, they are at least spoken—this will make
us stronger in the future.
Thank you for ignoring us, for marginalizing all those who oppose your decision, because the future of the Earth belongs to
the excluded.
Thank you, because, without you, we would not have realized our own ability to mobilize. It may serve no purpose this time,
but it will doubtless be useful later on.
Now that there seems no way ofsilencing the drums ofwar, I would like to say, as an ancient European king said to an invader:
“May your morning be a beautiful one, may the sun shine on your soldiers’ armor, for in the afternoon, I will defeat you.”
Thank you for allowing us—an army of anonymous people filling the streets in an attempt to stop a process that is already
underway—to know what it feels like to be powerless and to learn to grapple with that feeling and transform it. So, enjoy your
morning and whatever glory it may yet bring you.
Thank you for not listening to us and not taking us seriously, but know that we are listening to you and that we will not forget
your words.
Thank you, great leader George W. Bush.
Thank you very much.
Brazilian Paulo Coelho is one of the world’s bestselling authors, with his books translated and published in more than 150
countries. His 1996 work Warrior of Light: A Novel, was just released in the United States.
Translated by Margaret Jull Costa


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