Liberating truth: Coelho's intriguing journey

Selling more than one hundred million copies of one’s books in 69 languages in 150 countries around the world is certainly a spectacular achievement for an author.

More so when he doesn’t write in English and the theme remains almost unchanged in all his books — that of realising one’s dreams by following one’s heart. But that’s exactly what Paulo Coelho has accomplished in the past two decades and his biography A Warrior’s Life by Fernando Morais is all about how this alchemist of words managed to do it.

It is hard to think of another contemporary writer who has been simultaneously subjected to readers’ crazy devotion and critics’ venomous denigration as Coelho. While critical acclaim has eluded him for the most part of his literary career, it is his readers who, lapping up the ‘freshness and innocence of soul’ in his writing, have made him one of the most loved authors of our time. Through Fernando’s book Coelho thanks his readers by letting them into the darkest corners of his soul and giving them a chance to figure out the real man behind the publishing phenomenon that he is.

A Warrior’s Life is a detailed and honest account of a journey that is anything but ordinary. With an unconditional access to Coelho’s hundreds of personal dairies,  Morais brings to light the shockingly unconventional, emotionally fragile, mentally tormented, insanely ambitious, blasphemous, immoral and irrationally selfish aspects of Coelho’s personality that could easily scandalise his readers.

But the author of the bestsellers like The Alchemist, The Valkyries, Veronica Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes believes that “when the truth is a liberating truth, there is nothing to fear.” Morais complements this honesty by presenting his subject without any attempt to justify his extreme life.

Born in Brazil in 1947, Coelho’s formative years were shaped by the counterculture revolution and rebellion against military dictatorship that the country was witnessing at the time. Endowed with a delicate psyche and unique personality, Coelho’s way of balancing his ultra-sensitive core with the unfeeling world outside was by breaking every convention, every authority imposed on him, and this he did with feverish zeal.

His hope of reconciliation with the civilised society was dealt a final blow when his rebellious nature was interpreted as insanity by his parents, landing him in a mental asylum. A complex mind fed by such traumatic experiences drifted towards extreme experiences with absolute disregard for any self-discipline.

The book records in excruciating detail Coelho’s rollercoaster ride of emotional highs and lows through his childhood and youth. However, though his experiments with drugs, sex, hippie culture and occultism kept his life hanging on the fringes of sanity, Coelho never let go of his most cherished dream, that of becoming a world famous writer, and he pursued his goal with all his heart.

Before literary success would finally come to him with the publication of his book The Pilgrimage in 1987, Coelho had to experience his share of failed relationships, spiritual tests, love, lust, greed, illusions, betrayals, insecurities, self-doubt and phobias intensely, gaining in the process an outlook on life that would later make him one of the most popular inspirational writers of all time.

However, the reader of his biography would be at a loss to connect the contradictory values that he lived by in his personal life with the lofty spiritual themes that he writes about in his books. But as Paulo Coelho would say, “We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation.”

A Warrior’s Life is strictly for Coelho’s fans who will be pleased to learn that the story of their favourite author’s life is far more exciting than his books.

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