Great Books of the World – Part 13

“No one should place their dreams in the hands
of those who might destroy them.”

Paulo Coelho

Dreams are made to be followed, even if they end up as an illusion; one’s life is meant to be lived to the full. Some books are meant to be read, loved, inspire, and then re-read over and over again. Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist is such a book. His books have an enormous impact on people and sold more than 140 million copies worldwide. They were translated into 72 languages. Paulo Coelho was awarded numerous prestigious awards, among them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum and France’s Legion d’Honneur. In 2002 he was introduced into the Brazilian Academy of Letters. One could ask what made his books such an incredible success? It isn’t that obvious, but his writing is speaking directly to our souls and our hearts, reaching the hidden recesses we have forgotten about. He isn’t ashamed to talk about issues we would not raise in conversation even with our friends.

“What is a personal calling?”, he asks, “It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our dreams. Why?”

Perhaps, the simplistic answer would be that life’s responsibilities prevent us from pursuing our dreams. By reading how the shepherd boy, Santiago was following his calling across the meadows of Andalusia, cities of North Africa, through the dunes of the Sahara desert, where he meets the Alchemist, to Egypt’s Pyramids, and finally finding what he was searching for on his doorstep, back in Andalusia, enchants and inspire us in equal measures. And that is when we start our own dreams.

An illustration of Andalusia from The Alchemist, where it all started and where it finished.

 

PAULO  COELHO

Paulo Coelho was born in Rio, Brazil on 24 August 1947. His father Pedro Queima Coelho de Souza, was an engineer, and his mother, Lygia, a housewife. In Portuguese, Coelho means rabbit. He attended a Jesuit school, where he discovered his passion for writing. When you are born a  writer, you have no choice, the need to write is overwhelming and you have to follow the hand that guides you. His parents had no understanding of his compulsion and thought that he was mentally ill. They committed him to a mental institution when he was seventeen twice, where he endured sessions of electroconvulsive ‘therapy’. When he started to work as a journalist, he was once more committed by his father to the mental hospital.

Rio de Janeiro

This barbaric treatment could have broken a less resilient man but it made Paulo more adventurous and non-conformist, a traveller across Latin America. He was involved with a movement for free speech, imprisoned and tortured. He had a vision of a man, and two months later, while staying in Amsterdam, he met the man from his vision in a cafe. The stranger advised him to study the benign side of magic. He also suggested that Coelho walked the Road to Santiago, the medieval pilgrim route. After Coelho came back from the pilgrimage, he wrote his book about the experience and how it changes in an extraordinary way people’s lives, The Pilgrimage. As I saw two documentaries on the pilgrimage to Santiago, I was interested in Coelho’s views as it is a well-known fact that all the pilgrims are deeply affected by the experience.

A year later, he wrote a different in every way book about dreams, The Alchemist. The first edition sold only nine hundred copies, and the small publisher he used, decided not to reprint it. Coelho found a bigger publisher, and in a short time, both The Pilgrimage and The Alchemist were on the bestseller list. And the rest is history.

So far, Coelho wrote several books: The Valkyries, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, The Fifth Mountain, Eleven Minutes, and others. In 2002 The Alchemist was awarded the title of the most sold book in the Portuguese language by the Jornal de Letras de Portugal, the greatest literary authority in the Portuguese language. Another of Paulo Coelho’s books, Eleven Minutes was named as the world’s bestselling fiction title by USA TODAY, Publishing Trends.

Paulo Coelho and his wife, Christina Oiticica

Paulo Coelho and his wife, Christina Oiticica, are the founders of the Paulo Coelho Institute, which provides support and opportunities for the underprivileged communities in Brazil.

To let you fully appreciate the uniqueness of The Alchemist, here are a few extracts:

“For nearly a year, he had been working incessantly, thinking only of putting aside enough money so that he could return to Spain with pride.

‘Never stop dreaming,’ the old king had said, ‘Follow the omens.'”

Tangier

“The boy picked up Urim and Thummim, and, once again, had the strange sensation that the old king was nearby. He had worked hard for a year, and the omens were that it was time to go. I’m going to go back to doing just what I did before, the boy thought. Even though the sheep didn’t teach me to speak Arabic. But the sheep had taught him something even more important; that there was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time that he was trying to improve things at the shop. It was the language of enthusiasm, of things, accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired. Tangier was no longer a strange city, and he felt that, just as he conquered this place, he could conquer the world.

‘When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it,’ the old king had said. He waited patiently for the merchant to awaken and open the shop. Then the two went off to have some more tea.”

“‘I am leaving today’ said the boy. ‘I have the money I need to buy my sheep. And you have the money you need to go to Mecca.’

The old man said nothing. ‘Will you give me your blessing?’ asked the boy. ‘You have helped me.’ The man continued to prepare his tea, saying nothing. Then he turned to the boy.

‘I am proud of you,’ he said. ‘You brought a new feeling into my crystal shop. But you know that I’m not going to go to Mecca. Just as you know that you’re not going to buy your sheep.’

‘Who told you that?’ asked the boy startled.

‘Maktub*,’ said the old crystal merchant. And he gave the boy his blessing.

*It is written (by the hand of God).”

The Kaaba in Mecca

“Because it’s not love to be static like the desert, nor is it love to roam the world like the wind. And it is not love to see everything from a distance like you do. (the boy is addressing the Sun) Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World. When I first reached through to it, I thought that the Soul of the World was perfect. But later, I could see that it was like other aspects of creation, and had its own passions and wars. It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that’s where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.”

“In the silence, the boy understood that the desert, the wind, and the sun were also trying to understand the signs written by the hand, and were seeking to follow their paths, and to understand what had been written on a single emerald.  He saw that omens were scattered throughout the earth and in space, and that there was no reason or significance attached to their appearance; he could see that not the deserts, nor the winds, nor the sun, nor people knew why they had been created. But that the hand was a reason for all of this, and that only the hand could perform miracles, or transform the sea into a desert. Because only the hand understood that it was a larger design that had moved the universe to the point at which six days of creating had evolved into a Master Work.”

Below is a real photograph of unusual, but poignant cloud formation

“The boy reached through to the Soul of the World, and saw that it was a part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles.”

A sand storm in the desert – the Wind

The above extract is of great importance and significance; it combines and reaffirms the beliefs of all world religions: the existence of the world’s one and only Creator, and that the god lives in each and one of the souls that he created. And as such we are able, if we are passionate enough about things around us, to perform miracles. Although I have only several thousand people in 114 countries reading my blog and not billions, I am receiving from all parts of the world the same message as Coelho’s in The Alchemist.
This was the message, Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring, (the USA):

“As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely no conflict between a belief in evolution and belief in God as the creator. Believing as I do in evolution, I merely believe that is the method by which God created, and is still creating, life on earth.  And it is a method so marvellously conceived that to study it in detail is to increase – and certainly never to diminish  – one’s reverence and awe both for the Creator and the process.”

The same message came from India, written by Swami Vivekananda:

“I have understood this as the highest truth: God is present in every being. There is no other God besides that. He who serves all beings serves God indeed.”

From Japan, Myoshi posted this week:

“You have seen how the power of the spirit can work. It’s the beneficent will and enables you a clear glimpse into the plan and purpose that is behind all earthly life. As a result, you each become links in an infinite chain which ultimately must embrace the whole of humanity because these links are of the spirit and spiritually all mankind is one.”

From England, Joanna:

“I always believed that although in different parts of the world people pray in different places of worship, be it churches, temples, synagogues, mosques or shrines, and are using different names to call their god’s name, it is the same God, The Creator of the World, who lives in our souls and our hearts.”

Here, more thoughts from the Master, Paulo Coelho:

“But the caravan began to move, and it was impossible to hear what the Englishman was saying. The boy knew what he was about to describe, though the mysterious chain that links one thing to another, the same that had caused him to become a shepherd, that had caused his recurring dream, that had brought him to a city near Africa, to find a king, and to be robbed in order to meet a crystal merchant, and…

The closer one gets to realising his destiny, the more that destiny becomes his true reason for being, thought the boy.”

The above picture is taken from the blog of Dr Raziq, arkbiodiv.com

“The caravan moved toward the east. It travelled during the morning, halted when the sun was at its strongest, and resumed late in the afternoon. The boy observed in silence the progress of the animals and people across the desert. Now everything was quite different from how it was that day they had set out: then, there had been confusion and shouting, the cries of children and the whinnying of animals, all mixed with the nervous orders of the guides and the merchants.

But in the desert, there was only the sound of the eternal wind, and of the hoofbeats of the animals. Even the guides spoke very little to one another.

“I’ve crossed these sands many times,” said one of the camel drivers one night. “But the desert is so huge, and the horizons so distant, that they make a person feel small, and as if he should remain silent.”

The boy understood intuitively what he meant, even without ever having set foot in the desert before. Whenever he saw the sea or a fire, he fell silent, impressed by their elemental force. I’ve learned things from the sheep, and I’ve learned things from crystal, he thought. I can learn something from the desert, too. It seems old and wise. But he was excited at his intuitive understanding of the camel driver’s comment: maybe he was also learning the universal language that deals with the past and the present of all people. “Hunches”, his mother used to call them. The boy was beginning to understand that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything because it’s all written there.
“Maktub”, the boy said, remembering the crystal merchant.”

In the Literary Series, I review books worth reading, and for this reason, I feel that I have to say something about Coelho’s other book, Eleven Minutes, as it is, after The Alchemist, his most read one. It deals with sexuality as an expression of God’s gift to us. The misguided, the prudish, and naturally asexual, might be wise to give it a miss.

My views echo Coelho’s, as if the Creator of the World didn’t want us to have a desire for each other, he would have created us without it. But then the human race would not exist after Adam and Eve. I will let the Master explain in his eloquent way.

“By accepting that sex is a physical manifestation of God, and that is not a sin – it is a blessing. And then by understanding that except for two things that I consider to be really sick – rape and paedophilia – you are free to be creative. It’s up to you, how you do this. Sex was always surrounded by taboos, and I don’t see it necessarily as a manifestation of evil. I think that sexuality is first and foremost the way that God chooses for us to be here on earth, to enjoy this energy of love in the physical plane. And by this understanding, and practicing, we are helping God.”

And here, I leave you with the last word of the Master:

“As he was about to climb yet another dune, his heart whispered, ‘Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears. That’s where I am, and that’s where your treasure is.'”

“The boy climbed the dune slowly. A full moon rose again in the starry sky: it had been a month since he had set forth from the oasis. The moonlight cast shadows through dunes, creating the appearance of a rolling sea; it reminded the boy of the day when that horse had reared in the desert, and he had come to know the alchemist. And the moon fell on the desert’s silence, and on a man’s journey in search of treasure. When he reached the top of the dune, his heart leapt. There, illuminated by the light of the moon and the brightness of the desert, stood the solemn and majestic Pyramids of Egypt.”


“The boy fell to his knees and wept. He thanked God for making him believe in his destiny, and for leading him to meet a king, a merchant, an Englishman, and an alchemist.”

“There is only one thing
that makes a dream impossible
to achieve:
the fear of failure.”

Paulo Coelho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

94 thoughts on “Great Books of the World – Part 13

  1. Dear Ashok, I now have got your book coming in a few days. I wanted to order a hard copy but as it is coming from India, it would arrive at the end of February, according to the information.
    Looking forward to reading it I am in England..

    Joanna

    Like

  2. My pleasure, D, it was late and I couldn’t write everything I wanted. The German word is the longest word in their language!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We will have to compare the notes!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, sure. You are welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Right now I’m in a desert standing on a highest dune of the vicinity. I feel very close to Allah and my soul is full of love and happiness ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you, Dr. Raziq, that is the magic of Paulo Coelho’s spiritual writing. It speaks to the whole world, Maktub, and so far in the last 24 hours, almost 5000 people hear it and responded by reading his words of wisdom. I am very grateful to all readers, and next week there will be another iconic spiritual leader whose words will bring guidance and peace to many.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is great 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A wonderful post Joanna! What an interesting story, both his life and the book!. So many things to think about. I thought this was a great statement: Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World…. and this one also… “As he was about to climb yet another dune, his heart whispered, ‘Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears. That’s where I am, and that’s where your treasure is.’”
    Well done Joanna!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank you, I am so glad that you like it, together with now – 5233 other readers drawn into Coelho’s magic.
    Yes, the way he writes is magic, even when you know that some of it is an illusion.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  10. He seems to give you a lot to think about!

    Like

  11. Hi Joanna, this is an amazing post. I appreciate the history about him whose writing I absolutely love. And I read his book years ago, but it may be time to pick it up again. Thanks again, Lauren

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Thank you so much for your most kind comment, I am glad that my post jogged your memory about The Alchemist. It is extraordinary that this post brought so many readers to my blog, so far in the last 24 hours (not quite yet!) the numbers are quite close to 6000!!
    I can expect to exceed this next week as I am writing about the teaching of one most charismatic, the iconic spiritual leader that is revered around the world. Thank you, Lauren, and hope to see you ….

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I wonder Where am I? As a reader why I didn’t hear about this book before.

    Thankyou so much for recommending. And after reading about his story, now I’m really into this book.
    And I’ll comment again after I finish the book.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Thank you, Ritish, you made me smile because it is you who usually surprises me with your knowledge of literature, remember The Selfish Gene?
    I am glad you are going to read The Alchemist, so different from the writings of an atheist ( The Selfish Gene) yet with a not dissimilar message, leaving God’s issue aside. I am very much looking forward to your future comments.
    Thank you.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you and greatly appreciated it

    Joanna.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. That’s really nice of you. 🙂
    Yah! I remember that.
    The way you describing the book making me eager to read it. Actually Thanks to you. Have a great week. Enjoy.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Nice of you to remember!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you for the informative post on Paulo Coehlo. I enjoyed reading about him and although I quoted him before in one of my blogs, I am now more interested in reading his books.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Thank you so much for your kind comment. Coelho’s writing does attract a vast readership.
    Thank you.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Enjoyed the way dream-chasing runs throughout this post. I got that it’s something to go after evne if life feels like it’s getting in the way. And I had read about Coelho a bit but didn’t now all of these details. Always enjoy how you present these, and the pictures and tidbits you add.

    This part is mesmerizing: “[…] that there was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time that he was trying to improve things at the shop. It was the language of enthusiasm, of things, accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired.”

    There definitely is some aspect of language that we can all share, and it very well is the language of emotional expression. That is part of the reason why the opera can be so effective to experience, and music from any culture. Thanks for always for doing this! It’s inspiring to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you, Benjamin, for bringing the cool, and restrained appraisal, as you have picked up my favorite element of the book, the language we all had shared, those who created the beautiful architecture of the world were speaking this language, even when inspired by a dream. It is the life force of enthusiasm, and the action that is what builds the world, just dreaming would have us still living in caves, instead of going into space.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Could it be, that authors who lead interesting lives, write interesting stories, too? Thank you for some of the tidbits in this post. I did not know them, even if I have read some books from Paulo.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Thank you. Yes, you are right but there many who didn’t. Thank you for your kind comment.

    Joanna

    Like

  24. These essays that we readers get to read here are but the pages from a book still to be written. Like reading invisible words we keep floating through them as if we already are sitting in a boat with a boatman already given to us, taking care till we reach seeking our own depths;

    You, the boatman.

    I will tell you a secret, i have never read Paulo. May be a few pages from alchemist but i remember not remembering anything. I couldn’t understand it. But for years whenever his name reaches my ear, i see a tree. Instead i have been a reader of his blog. For last eleven years and rarely so he writes in english, but what i and he; we have something common. It is how we feel about drinking water from a river and how it turns sweet the moment it passes through our throats.

    The magic, yes. magic. We all have that spark dear Joanna, but only a few know where its plug is.

    Yours
    Narayan

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Dear Narayan, I cannot find words to tell you how impressed I am with your comments. What you and Paulo Coelho have in common is obvious – you are both born writers of the highest order. You are following in his footsteps, and one day you are going to be written about. In the next few posts, I am going to present each week an author whose spiritual power of writing will show you where that magic plug is.
    All of the writers have fame beyond our understanding, but you have your own boatman to take you across the waters to the place of spiritual understanding where The Tree of Wisdom lives.
    Next week is greatly important for you because it is about your own, deeply held beliefs, I will meet you there.

    Yours,

    Joanna

    Like

  26. It is of no surprise that the readership of spiritual post jumped to 3.331 on the night of publishing, on Saturday, on Sunday it was
    . 2.313
    . then 443 yesterday
    . 307 before midnight, at 9 pm
    By the end of the week, it should be close to, take a guess…
    Next week !!
    Trust your boatman, Dear Narayan; those figures could be yours because your aim is the same as next week writer’s, and his quote:

    “That is why I believe this dialogue between religion and science is important, for from it may come developments that can be of great benefit to mankind”.

    Yours,

    Joanna

    Like

  27. You’re welcome. I love all you say. And you are correct, I think. You can’t just dream and think. All that comes to dreamers are often dreams. You have to act as well. Actions make things move. Yet, it will always start with a dream too.

    Like

  28. Thank you! See you next week.

    Joanna

    Like

  29. I had never heard these names before, but the Alchemist intrigues me! I have to check these out, as well as anything else I may find by Paulo Coelho. Thank you for the wonderful recommendations! Truly, you can never have too many books, and I’m always on the lookout for new things to read.

    Liked by 4 people

  30. Thank you for looking up my posts so quickly. You are definitely a girl upon my heart! And you love books – when time allows, please
    read my Literary Series from the number1. There are a plethora of interesting facts about the best writers.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I fully intend to! I only had time to check out two today, but I’m going to start from the beginning and look them all over

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Oh this is one of my favourite books. Every line of this piece touched my heart and soul. I have already read it twice but still feel like reading it again and again. The last quote in your post still echoes in my mind. Thank you for this beautiful post- totally made my day 🙏🏻💖

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Thank you very much, your kind and generous comment made my day!! Could you add to my reply 3 red hearts? Steel hasn’t learned it!

    Joanna

    Like

  34. Many thanks, and I hope you will like an extraordinary post this Saturday. Thank you for liking other posts, very kind!

    Joanna

    Like

  35. Alright! I’ve just completed the book. And I’m really thankful to you.
    It was such a great book. I loved it.
    The story of Santiago covers so much more that I was not expecting.
    ‘The alchemist’ is surely one of the best books I’ve read.
    And I also got to know about the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. His writing and novel was addictive.

    Best line as quoted from the book :-
    “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Thank you, Ritish, that is wonderful to know. And it is so kind of you to let me know about it. I hope there will be more interesting books for you to discover and like or even love it.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  38. I have always loved this book! Amazing writer. Great post!!

    Like

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