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Writing Made Them Rich #4: Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho was born on August 24th 1947 in Rio deJaneiro, Brazil.

At age 17 he announced his intention to be a writer.It was a decision bitterly opposed by his parents,partly because Brazil at that time was under amilitary junta that persecuted writers andintellectuals.

Coelho's rebellious behaviour led his parents to havehim confined to a mental hospital in Rio de Janeirowhere he received shock treatment. He escaped - andwas returned - three times.

With the arrival of the 1960's Coelho threw himselfenergetically into the counterculture of drugs androck-and-roll.

In his 20's he fulfilled his ambition to be a writerand worked as a playwright, a theatre director, ajournalist, and a song-writer for Brazilian pop musicstars such as Elis Regina and Raul Seixas.

In 1974, says Coelho "my life collapsed".

That year he was arrested three times, the first timeas an innocent bystander at a bank robbery, the secondtime for speaking out against the establishment at apop concert. After being released by the police he wasarrested a third time by paramilitaries who torturedhim for a week.

In the late 1970's his life was back on track againand he became artistic director for CBS in Brazil.

But in 1979 he was suddenly sacked without explanationand he spent the next 2 years knocking on doorstrying to get back into the music industry.

In 1981 he decided to try his luck in Europe and theremet a member of an obscure Catholic Sect that studiesthe language of symbols: RAM or Regnus Agnus Mundi. Heprogressed within the sect and eventually became aMagus.

In 1986, on instructions from his mentor within RAM,Coelho undertook the pilgrimage to Santiago diCompostella in Spain.

The following year he published The Pilgrimage, anaccount of his experiences on the 'Road of Santiago'.

In 1988 he wrote the book that would make him aninternational celebrity, The Alchemist, a story aboutfollowing one's destiny and being open to the universeof signs and symbols.

The Alchemist became an instant best-seller and hassince sold over 11 million copies worldwide.

Coelho's eight novels have sold over 37 million copiesin 56 languages and have been published in 140countries.

In 1998 the French magazine 'Lire' listed Coelho asthe second best-selling author worldwide.

Paulo Coelho has won over 15 international awards forhis writing including the prized French award, theInsignia of Arts and Letters (1996). Critics havepraised his writing for its "symbolic language thatdoes not speak to our brains, but to our hearts".

In 1998 Paulo Coelho was received by the Pope in theVatican.

He has been appointed to the United Nations as SpecialAdvisor for Spiritual Convergences and InternationalDialogues.

Coelho's view on happiness: "The most mediocre thingin the world. I'd rather go by the idea of joy."

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