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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Paulo Coelho interview

an interesting life is full of questions. A boring life is full of answers - Paulo Coelho
A man of original philosophical thoughts and a torchbearer for several others who swear by his ideologies and profound wisdom, Paulo Coelho, an icon in his own right, is one of the most enlightening spiritual writers of our time. In conflict with his parents and the otherwise staid norms of society for embracing his true calling, Coelho is one of the most revered literary figures in today’s age, whose mere mention evokes a sense of tranquility.

With his latest offering ‘The Winner Stands Alone’ already a hit and touted as a bestseller from the master storyteller, Coelho has enriched the world with another masterpiece. In a candid interview, the much-celebrated author spoke to Tanu Talwar of Spicezee.comabout his inspirations, supernatural experiences and the importance of struggle in one’s life.
Tanu: Your books are extremely thought provoking and always have a deep message attached. What is the one common philosophy at the core of your writing that you convey through your books?

Coelho: My soul. My love. My experience. And one sentence: "Who dares, wins."

My inner questions and doubts when facing the present moment. I see philosophy as something alive, something that changes according to our inner needs. But if I were to synthesize my work, I would say, my philosophy is: live your personal legend, pay the price of your dreams, read the omens, awaken your feminine side, and dare to be different.

Tanu: Tell us about the literary influences in your life? Who is your favourite author of today’s age?

Coelho: Recently I read a very interesting book called “The Lucifer Effect” by Philip Zimbardo. My favourite books and authors, who I have had the luck to read in their original language: English, Spanish, French or Portuguese are: Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado, The Outsider by Albert Camus, I’ll Dress You in Mourning by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins.

Tanu: Have you had any supernatural experiences and are you a practitioner of any science of method related to it?

Coelho: We are at a crossroads. Since spirituality is going to play an important role during the next century, we have two choices: either we go towards fundamentalism or towards tolerance. I am preaching tolerance; but this is a long fight, and it depends how people behave here and now.

I think that we are starting to get much more conscious about, you know, the importance of the spiritual path, and we are fulfilling it by paying attention to ourselves, by paying attention to, well, the connection that we have every single day with the soul of the world. We have this language of the omens, the language of the signs. It is an alphabet that is directed to us. If we do not fear to commit mistakes, if we take the omens as a warning, as a help to cross that particular day, then we start to get deeper and deeper into the soul of the world. Well, to find, not the meaning of life because I believe in mysteries, I believe that there is a mystery that goes far beyond our understanding. But at least to know that there is something for us to do here and we have to do.

All is very unpredictable. As in life, there is not always a rational explanation for certain choices.

My literature is much more the result of a paradox than that of an implacable logic. The paradox is the tension that exists in my soul. Like in archery, the paradox is the bow that can be both tense and relaxed. I know that it’s important to have values in life, but I’ve always been more drawn to incoherence, because life is not static but rather like the tides, coming and going.

Tanu: From where do you draw inspiration for the characters in your novels?

Coelho: My characters are a snapshot of myself in a given moment of my life. They are the mirrors of my soul. Real events, memories, longings, other stories - all fuse when I embark in a new story.

Tanu: Could you please elaborate on the one life changing experience that you have had?

Coelho: My turning point was my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It was then that I, who had dedicated most of my life to penetrate the `secrets` of the universe, realized that there are no secrets. Life is and will always be a mystery. We have to follow the omens, and pay attention to others. Life is a constant miracle, and this miracle manifests itself in encounters with other people.

After the pilgrimage, I simplified my spiritual search a lot, and instead of searching for answers, I started to understand that life itself is an answer. All moments are defining and life changing as long as you enable them to be.

I was very happy in the things I was doing. I was doing something that gave me food and water -- to use the metaphor in The Alchemist, I was working, I had a person who I loved, I had money, but I was not fulfilling my dream. My dream was, and still is, to be a writer.

I’m a pilgrim writer and that inevitably appears in the way my characters deals with space. I’m in constant movement and very often I find that my characters need to equally find themselves in a journey. I believe that we are constantly experiencing transformation and that’s why we need to let life guide us. That’s what the main character in ‘The Witch of Portobello’, Athena, for instance, does: she runs the world in order to discover herself.
The physical journey mimics the psychological one in the sense that it’s only through this experience that she is able to grasp the deeper meaning of her life, the reason for her wanderings.

Tanu: These days a lot of books are being made into movies. Do you think that books lose their significance when made into films?

Coelho: A book being made into a film is not important. What is very important is that the reader is the director and the person who does the casting and everything.

The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader. That’s why we go to movies and say, “Oh, the book is better.” So since then I forbade the selling of the rights. No books of mine will made into a film unless, of course, I fall in love with an idea.

Tanu: The title of your book ‘Winner Stands Alone’ is very intriguing. Does it play on the philosophy of ‘lonely at the top’?

Coelho: ‘The Winner Stands Alone’ is about the gigantic price we pay for allowing ourselves to chase illusions, instead of our true dreams.

This book is a portrait and I use murder as a symbol, as a metaphor to all the death-craving tendencies that rode in our souls when we chase an illusion.

In this book I wanted to explore how dreams can be manipulated and how people get shattered in the process. I’m not condemning vanity – since all under the Sun is vanity as Salomon said. What I am interested in is in how people allow themselves to be dispossessed of themselves.

In our current society there are collective standards that are completely anonymous and yet many try to subscribe to them. Some people believe their happiness is conditioned by money, fame, beauty… How does that happen? This book arose from this central question.

Tanu: You had to fight your way to become a writer. What importance does struggle hold for one to realise the significance of achieving one’s goal.

Coelho: I believe that the need to keep on understanding myself and questioning the world is what motivates me to write. I’m living the dream I had in my youth but I never look upon this dream as something that has an end. As long as I’m able to live, think and love the spark will continue.

I always had the need to write, despite the outer world. It is the need to keep on understanding myself and questioning the world that’s motivates me to write.

Struggle is important. You have to look at life itself as a pilgrimage. We think: ‘Oh this is boring I’m just commuting to work’ but we are all on a pilgrimage whether we like it or not and the target, or goal, the real Santiago, if you like, is death. You must get as much as you can from the journey, because - in the end - the journey is all you have.

I agree with the teachings of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who said that: “When you walk, you are massaging and honouring the earth. In the same way, the earth is trying to help you to balance your organism and mind. Understand this relationship and try to respect it – may your steps have the firmness of a lion, the elegance of a tiger and the dignity of an emperor.”

source: spicezee