Thıs Is My Story

THE BRAZILIAN WRITER PAULO COELHO WAS IN ISTANBUL RECENTLY AND ANSWERED OUR QUESTIONS DURING A BRIEF PRESS CONFERENCE.

Paulo Coelho has entered the Guinness World Records Book as the living writer whose books have been translated into the most languages. The writer’s most recent book, Alef, is going to be translated into scores of languages within the year. Coelho fans in Turkey are lucky, because Turkish is the first language in which it will appear following publication of the original Portuguese.

What is Alef?
Alef is now, present time, the point at which everything is in the same place at the same time. I experienced a crisis of faith in 2006. Just at the moment when I said I was done for, my close friend and mentor, J, said, Your time has come to go. I heeded his advice and set out on a Trans-Siberian journey of exactly 9,288 kilometers. It was a journey that started from Moscow and ended at Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean. On the way I met a young Turkish girl and we touched on Alef, that point outside time and space.

What part of the book is fact? What part fiction?
One of the novel’s two protagonists is a 21-year-old Turkish girl named Hilal. The other is me. Some ninety percent of the three-month journey is true.

Have you been in Istanbul before?
Yes, I think my first time was in 1996. I actually lost my luggage en route. A city I’d never seen before, a publisher I’d never met, and nothing but the clothes on my back… But I still had a great time.
Is writing a mission for you, or do you write because, as Turkish writer (Sait Faik Abasıyanık) once said, if you don’t write you’ll go crazy?
This is my story, my way of sharing. First you lose yourself, true. Years ago I too went mad. But when you think about it, everybody in this world has a mission. Believe it or not. I believe it. Put your love into everything you do. God isn’t going to ask you if you sinned; he’s going to ask if you loved enough. If you did, there’s no problem. If you didn’t, you’ll pay for it.
COELHO’S TURNING POINT
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, Coelho wandered all over America and Europe in the sixties as a hippy. When he returned to Brazil he wrote song lyrics, worked as a journalist and got interested in theater. In his own words, the pilgrimage he made to Santiago de Compostela in 1986, the subject of his novel, The Pilgrimage, was a turning point in his life. Coelho, who published The Alchemist in 1987, literally burst onto the world scene in the nineties.
Among the writer’s other novels are Brida (1990), By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1994), The Fifth Mountain (1996), The Manual of the Warrior of Light (1997), Veronika Decides to Die (1998), The Devil and Miss Prym (2000), Eleven Minutes (2003), The Zahir (2005), The Witch of Portobello (2006) and The Winner Stands Alone (2008).