Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1947. He was fascinated by the spiritual quest and traveled widely to enrich his learning of secret societies, oriental religions, and other mystical beliefs and legends.
After a brief attempt to study law, Coelho took a two-year trip through South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe. After returning to Brazil, he worked as a song writer with several famous Brazilian musicians, among them Elis Regina, Rita Lee, and Raul Seixas. The military dictatorship that came to power imprisoned him briefly in 1974, further complicating his quest to become a writer. He worked as a theatre director and as an actor, lyricist and journalist before publishing his first book, Hell Archives, in 1982. In 1986, he walked over 500 miles on the Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, an experience he wrote about as a spiritual awakening in The Pilgrimage. The following year, he wrote The Alchemist, which, despite slow sales initially, went on to become one of the best-selling Brazilian books of all time, selling 30 million copies and placing sixth in world sales in 2003.
Other works by Coelho include Brida (1990), The Valkyries (1992), By the river Piedra I sat Down and Wept (1994), the collection of his best columns published in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo entitle Maktub (1994), the compilation of texts Phrases (1995), The Fifth Mountain (1996), Manual of a Warrior of Light (1997), Veronika decides to die (1998), The Devil and Miss Prym (2000), the compilation of traditional tales in Stories for parents, children and grandchildren (2001), Eleven Minutes (2003), The Zahir (2005), The Witch of Portobello (2006) and a compilation of texts gathered under the title Like a Flowing River (2006).
Coelho’s work has been translated into 67 languages and has been distributed in 60 languages in more than 150 countries. His novels have sold more than 65 million copies in total, making him one of the world’s best-selling authors. He and his wife, Christina, live both in Brazil and in France.