Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho

The Witch of Portobello 2006

Interview about The Witch of Portobello, O Estado do Paraná, Brazil, 1 October 2006.


I think that each person has a way of seeing who is following their dream. In the “Witch of Portobello”, Athena – as a character who surrenders, who dedicates herself to following her dream – could be easily analysed through a conventional book structure. But I preferred to have other people look at her, the one who took the risk, and each judge in their own way and within their personal conditions. Then we have the passionate man, the teacher, the disciple, the teachers she meets along the way, all reflecting Athena and her world and, at the same time, reflecting on themselves.

My reader is very intelligent, it is not a difficult way, each statement is linked to the other in order to create a story. My reader is a person capable of understanding very well the things I want to say because he is, above all, a sensitive person and attuned to the present moment.

A book is much more complex than a message, it cannot be summarised in a message. It seeks to address the various aspects of the life of a normal person who is looking for a meaning for their day.

Despite her traumatic childhood, Athena is raised in a golden cradle and is a person who is very aware of what she doesn’t want to do, although she doesn’t always know what she doesn’t want to do. Then she goes step by step, slowly, approaching her personal legend, her history, her reason for living. Athena, for example, becomes a mother, raises a child and that does not stop her from taking any steps. I often hear people say that their son and husband get in the way. I am convinced that anyone who loves you, be it the husband, the father or the son, even if sometimes he knew there was another choice, he will support you in the decisions and in the end that person will be happy because you are happy.

The sense of Athena’s search is the sense of the search for all of us. In the beginning, things appear very clear, we know what we don’t want, we know what we are not happy with, but we don’t know exactly what they are happy with. In that case, the first thing is to abandon everything that makes you happy and start your way. The path is marked by the signs that people start doing like Athena, something that gives him pleasure and little by little the path is gradually opening up.

Each person is aware of the meaning of his life. She knows when she is close to that sense when she is enthusiastic, when she puts love into what she is doing. She knows that she is far away when another day appears and there is no special motivation that gives her joy. Therefore, it is impossible to generalise saying that the meaning is this or that, since there are as many senses as inhabitants on planet Earth.

No doubt. Not just her, but all the people at the forefront of this new understanding, this new behaviour. These people, although they are not alone, end up paying a high price. Everything in this life has a price and every price is high. Denying your dreams, you may think that you are choosing a more comfortable and safe life, however it is not so. You are renouncing a lot of things in order not to live what was set for you as a personal legend on Earth. The price is not so visible at the moment, but at the end of their lives, those who did not pay to live their dreams end up feeling bitter. The others who paid the price to live their dreams are constantly fighting and that means moments of victory, of joy, moments of defeat, of pain, of sadness, but all these defeats or joys are part of a bigger plan. A warrior looks at this and never sees himself as a victim, as a person who suffered what happened. He goes through difficult times, but does not stay there, so the price is high, either living his dreams or renouncing them. You either pay by force, or you pay in the end, but one way or another you will pay this price. In my opinion, it is better to pay the price of your dreams and your life will be very interesting.

I think everyone should drop everything and move towards their dream. I am an example of this because one could never imagine that a Brazilian writer could live from literature, could be translated and for a long time in my life I tried to do two things that I did not fully trust: the possibility of surrendering and achieving. However, little by little I realised that if I tried to do two things I would always give priority to the one that gave me financial security than the one that would really give me the joy of living. Soon after I did the Camino de Santiago, 20 years ago, I decided to stop and risk everything. Whoever does not risk everything never gets where it has to go. Life is a gamble in the dark. You always win when your days have joy and meaning. And you always lose when, despite having all the values ​​that society proposes to you, you have neither joy nor meaning for what you are doing.

It is absolutely correct. In the beginning, the deity had no sex, she was a father and mother. His masculine side took care of the discipline of the tribes and his feminine side had a very broad, very open understanding. There was no time at that time, there were only the seasons and the man went on his way according to his own needs. He couldn’t locate God in one place, God was everywhere. From the moment that agriculture is discovered, man settles down, stops being a nomad, becomes sedentary and begins to assign places to gods or goddesses. Little by little, however, the needs for discipline of a tribe overlap with the need for contemplation, since now he is not obliged to travel, he needs to organise himself and, from there, we establish the tradition of a male god, a strict god, a god who has rules of behaviour, which are deeply linked to religion.

I think more and more. I think that suddenly the great revolution of the human being is precisely, in addition to maintaining discipline, of course, to awaken this side of compassion, of the sixth sense, of pure love, which is a revealing love; a love that makes you understand things with your heart, although its logic does not always follow. Nowadays, we have two tendencies: one is deeply fundamentalist – people are very much denying any individual responsibility in this spiritual search, so the more traditional religions are strengthened with excess of rigor. On the other hand, there is a part of

population that is understanding that, although rigor is necessary, greater compassion is also needed. It is necessary to accept that love reveals, love makes us understand things through the heart and allows us to see life in a different way. We have seen it all over the world, all of us, all of the people alive. Each time the human being is more turned to nature, to simplicity, to this contemplation. Always respecting the mystery of life, but understanding that the famous meaning of life is love. A late 18th century mystic, a Protestant pastor, says that when we die and stand before God, He will not ask about our faults or what we did wrong. It will ask neither of faults nor of virtues. The central question of God, or the goddess, or divinity, will be whether we use our lives to love a lot. That will be the question we will have to answer: whether we were able to use our life to exercise love for the goddess, for our neighbour and for everything we do.

I was recently at Melk Abbey, Austria, talking to Benedictine monks. The church, in my opinion, adores Our Lady in a way that no other religion adores the feminine side. Our church reacts a little to the idea of ​​the mother God, although Pope John Paul I, in one of his encyclicals, said that God is a mother. Then, talking to one of the people I know in this abbey, whom I consider my master, Abbot Puccard, I asked him why the female presence is not well accepted by our religion. He replied that it is only by tradition and that one day we will get there. I was very surprised when the superior abbot said we are going to get there and added that in the Benedictine prayers that have been going on for centuries, in a midday prayer, they refer to the mother God. I believe that the tendency of the Catholic Church is to accept this, although like all traditions, it costs a little to get there.

Quite the opposite. I think that the reader has the right to know what he is buying and the Internet allows this, allows him to read some chapters and then make the decision. I can give a very concrete example: the time when in Russia my books were being pirated and traded without authorisation. It was very difficult to distribute there, so I put “The Alchemist” for free on the Internet for my Russian readers. And them

they read the book and from there they started to be interested in my work and started to buy my books. I think the Internet is a free territory, where everyone is entitled to basic principles, including pleasure. If a person can buy, he will buy, because it is much more pleasant to read a physical book than on a computer screen. If she can’t buy, she still has the right to access that job. I understand that I have an obligation to allow this access.

The reader can change the world and not literature.

At a time when people no longer understand each other on the political, economic, religious level, where barriers are increasing, in a world that tends towards polarisation, radicalism, art is the last bridge intact and that allows cultures different understand each other. So, it may be very difficult to understand my neighbour’s culture, political and religious system, but I will always understand his history, his music, his ballet, painting and as long as there is this bridge there will be the possibility of dialogue.

In fact, I always have only one expectation when I finish a book: it’s whether I did a good job. And I did a good job. This expectation was fulfilled on my part. It is now up to the reader to decide. But my duty is with the love I have for what I do and I put all my love there, and that makes me happy and satisfied.

First of all, a book for me is a challenge. I used to say that before I had a dream. My dream is not to reach a dream but to have one. If my dream was to be a writer, it is clear that my obligation is to write books and not just live on past successes. I like this challenge. Second, I write to understand myself better, I am in search of understanding my soul. The moment I sit in front of the computer it’s like a lot of questions I’ve asked myself

manifest at that moment on the screen. I thank God I am still a mystery to myself. So I can’t even try to please myself or be afraid of what I’m thinking. I have to try to show what my heart wants to show, even if I am the first to see it and, if that pleases me, I will be happy. Once this is done, I am sure that the reader will see the book as a catalyst that provokes questions and not answers. I don’t think the reader looks for answers in my books because the answer is very easy to find, but I think he looks for the good questions, those questions I have when I sit down to write.


Language: Portuguese Publication Date: 2006

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