Some 65 million copies of the works of Paulo Coehlo were already circulating in 150 countries and 60 languages when a pre-owned copy of The Alchemist announcing these facts on the back cover appeared last summer in one of the (few) great remaining 2nd-hand bookstores in Vancouver (Bibliophile on Commercial Drive), which is where I came to know of its celebrated author — a man, according to the blurb at the back of the book, whose suffering at the hands of paramilitary goons in Brazil in the nineteen-sixties “affected him profoundly,” and led him to take up the life of an “executive in the music industry.” Paul Coehlo became a writer, the blurb-writer goes on to say, after meeting a man in a cafe in Amsterdam whom he had seen months earlier “in a vision.”
In his introduction to The Alchemist, Paulo Coehlo exhorts his readers to pursue their dreams as he has pursued his. At least one of the dreams of Paulo Coehlo, the only one alluded to in his introduction to The Alchemist, ceased properly to be a dream when, as he writes, “little by little, my dream was becoming reality,” and his books began to sell “ten, a thousand, a million copies in America.”
Is it the destiny of dreams then to be erased by reality?
The “essence” of Coehlo’s work rendered in a few sentences can be found in a wonderful article in the Business Standard by Nilanjana S Roy of New Delhi.