Ten thousand, a million copies in America

Paulo Coehlo, whose books had sold in excess of 65 million copies before one of them fell into my hands in a used book store in the spring of 2009, is described in the biographical note as having suffered torture at the hands of the paramilitary in Brazil in the late nineteen-sixties, an experience that “affected him profoundly,” and caused him to exchange the life of an activist for the life of “an executive in the music industry.” Later in his life, according to the same biographical note, Sr. Coehlo met a man in Amsterdam whom he had seen in a dream. In his introduction to the book that fell into my hands, Sr. Coehlo advises his readers to pursue their dreams as he has pursued his. One of his dreams, perhaps his main dream, ceased properly to be a dream when he discovered that it “little by little, was becoming reality” as one of his books sold “ten, a thousand, a million copies in America.”

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.

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  1. Posted 24 February 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    While my mom was in the hospice last year, my sister read The Alchemist to her. After mom was off the pain meds and no longer fully conscious, my sister continued to read the book to mom who sighed and smiled as certain passages were read to her. My sister finished reading the book a couple of hours before mom passed away.

    That said, mom’s final moments were spent watching a complex storyline wrap up on The Young and the Restless, the soap opera that our family watched together for as long as I can remember. So profound is our familial addiction that my papa would make sure that he was home from work at 4:30 so he could watch it. Having no TV, I read a daily summary posted on Toni’s Spoiler Site. That is a true story:)

  2. Roy Jones
    Posted 7 April 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Wow. Lily’s story was amazing