One fine morning, on my way to work, I found our estate watchman reading a huge book with a black cover and was curious. You see, I always found him reading mainstream best selling authors (the ones we loved in high school like Jeffrey Archer, Sydney Sheldon – I found him reading a James Hardly Chase with those hot cover images one time). That guy is a reader. And readers are in my heart.
Back to the big black book. It turned out to be the biography of who else? THE Paulo Coelho. Of course you know Paulo Coelho, and you would pause to have a serious look at it. You also wouldn’t leave it at the Inama Bookshop even if the price were a whole 200 bob, would you? Especially if you are Esther Kute – when I was at Bata, she made me download all pirated ebooks of Paulo Coelho I could find online. And she keeps tweeting his books.
If you are a wannabe writer like me, the biography of possibly the biggest writer ever is not something you would leave. You would want to know how he started, how he wrote his first book (btw, I have been writing my first book since I knew how to write back in primary school). How he sold all the millions he sold. What his inspirations are.
And so, I asked him if he could swap the book for the one I had in my bag – one of those Harlequin romance novels… and he agreed! Either he was bored with the biography, or he wanted to have a rush of blood. Those Harlequins are very very steamy.
First thing I did was take a picture of the book and tweet it at Esther Kute. Gloaty much? And went on to read it every day for two weeks. I stopped driving to work and started taking the slowest matatus just so that I could have enough time to dip myself into the life of Paulo Coelho.
And I learnt that Paulo Coelho is one of the most fucked up people you will ever hear about. That guy is gross, and has lived just the life. Made me wonder if one needs to be that screwed up to the a famous writer.
Because his experiences gave birth to all his books.
The writer, Fernando Morais describes Paulo Coelho’s from his miraculous birth. He was pronounced dead at birth by doctors, but his mom’s prayers brought him back (believe in prayer, folks). He was an awkward child, huge not-so-good-looking head (like mine back in the day)… And too troublesome.
But he was still a good writer as a kid; telling his parents that he wanted to be a writer when he grew up. Which they were against because his father was an engineer and they wanted him to follow in those steps.
This writing passion burner through his heart and mind through the years, writing his diary religiously… And failing in all schools went to. His mind was elsewhere; drugs, wanton sex and writing.
So much so that he spent several months in a pyschiatric hospital because, he was literally mad.
Not that it changed him, because Paulo Coelho went deeper into drugs, a hippie sex life, conning, cultism and Devil Worship.
Oh… and a two time prisoner of Brazil’s dictatorship, not for his right against the government – Paulo Coelho was a coward – but one time for a mistaken identity and the other for his lyrics. He made his riches writing lyrics for several music stars like Raul Seixas (my new favourite rockstar).
For him, life was one huge experiment. He traveled the world, tried different religions, and listened to the voices in his head.
Most importantly. Like the boy in his book The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho followed and achieved his dream.
He became a great writer.
The book is a great one. It’s a very graphic account of the life of a writer who went against the odds to become a writer.