Paulo Coelho’s life may well be itself worthy of a homely book. During his adolescence he was committed to a psychiatric hospital by his own parents, who believed that his rebellious attitude was a sign of madness; it was under such parental guidance that he was subjected to the horrors of electroshock therapy. In his twenties, Coelho dropped out of law school to travel around South America; he later became a journalist. After a life-changing pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a writer. Here are 10 of his most memorable novels.
1) The Alchemist (1988)
The Alchemist is a psychological novel, or so it would like you to think. Paulo Coelho tells the story of a Spanish shepherd who creates his own personal legend through his Andalusian travels in Egypt. The story propounds the “philosophy” that people only discover themselves when they understand how to listen. But don’t listen to us, listen to the alchemist: “Alchemy is the projection in the material world of all spiritual concepts. Not only laboratory work but also that inner, personal chemistry, whose lab becomes our life itself. If we are faithful to what I call the ‘Personal Legend’, the whole world changes and the things we touch will also turn into the philosophical gold.”
2) The Winner Stands Alone (2008)
What is the price of success? Paulo Coelho offers us a mirror of our own society, where the cult of luxury and success makes us deaf to the truths murmured by our hearts. In Cannes, we meet those who have succeeded in the worlds of haute couture and cinema: a Russian millionaire, a reputed Middle-Eastern stylist, starlet Gabriela, an ambitious detective, and the model Jasmine. Money, power, and fame are their lives’ aims, and to achieve these they are prepared to do anything.
3) The Devil and Miss Prym (2009)
The eternal conflict between good and evil is revisited in The Devil and Miss Prym. To tell this parable Coelho has transformed the Garden of Eden into a small village in the mountains, dozing in peaceful bliss, and the Fruit of Knowledge into gold bullion. The tempting serpent is an elegant traveler and talker who chooses Chantal Prym, a gorgeous young barmaid, as his mediator. Coelho dissects and manipulates his characters like puppets in this world of shadows, where death is not confined to cemeteries but remains closely linked to life. So, is man good or bad? And is God even interested in their fate? The answer can be found in a little more than 200 pages.
4) Eleven Minutes (2003)
Maria is a young Brazilian who works as a sales clerk in a fabric store and gives herself a week’s holiday in Rio de Janeiro. On Copacabana beach, a Swiss man offers her a job as a cabaret dancer in Geneva. She sees this as the beginning of a fairy tale, but the reality is quite different. Maria falls into prostitution, although it is important to note that she does this without shame. For all her adventures, however, sex and love remain enigmas, until finally, she meets a young painter who happens to be as lost as she is. To discover the sacredness of sexuality, Maria must first all find a way to reconcile with herself.
5) Manuscript Found in Accra (2012)
It is July 14, 1099. With crusaders at the gates of their city, the inhabitants of Jerusalem crowd around a mysterious man known as the Copt to hear his last teachings. The crowd, composed of Christians, Jews and Muslims, who previously lived in harmony, are preparing for battle, defeat and slaughter. But far from any war strategy is the lesson of life that is given to them. The manuscript is an invitation to rethink our humanity, and poses a seminal question: which values remain when everything else is destroyed?
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