Paulo Coelho dreams of being a writer
text: Yelena Jetpyspayeva , exclusively for Gazeta.kz
On 14 April journalists met a popular Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho in the National press club.
When my colleague told me about the arrival of my favourite writer, whose books I was buying in long queues of Moscow bookstores, and then lent it to nearly all my fellow students afterwards I didn't believe it. What should he do here? I realised that it was true, when I saw a flow of journalists streaming in the press club doors. The hall was overfilled. Everybody was excited by an opportunity to meet the world famous writer. Watches showed 11:10, when whispers became heard that the Writer had arrived and the press conference started.
"I believe that it is the same religion that seeks the same divine light. I am a Christian, but I respect other people, who follow other paths towards the same divine light. People of good will believe that it is possible. But I see today that the political situation is manipulated. And I see that they use religions to strike blows. I learned from my Christian and Moslem friends that when we are together, we are united in the face of God."
About the idea of Nazarbayev to build a palace of world religions in Astana
"I don't know this proposition very well, but I think that it is a brilliant idea if it is realised. Saying this I would like to express the following idea - God lives not only in temples, it is everywhere. And that's why during my visit to Kazakhstan I would like to dedicate more than one day to staying in the steppes, because I believe that God lives also there."
"I would like you to understand me precisely about what I consider to be courage. Courage is not a lack of fear. Fearing something is absolutely natural. There were moments in my life when I was scared. I think that the problem starts when the fear paralyses you. You want to make a step, but you start saying to yourself: "No, if I don't do this something may happen…" And then you keep repeating what you have been doing before day by day. Fears change inside of you. Courage is a capability to supersede your fears."
On the appearance of talents and independence
"There were difficult moments related with dictatorial regime in my life. Three times I was arrested and once tortured. But I don't want to say that all good things come from being repressed. During crises the art is a way to resist. But it can't be a justification to any repressions. Freedom is one of the most important gifts that we have. What means being a good writer? What is independence? Independence is a very abstract notion. One should adhere to something. I have dedicated myself to my work, my dreams, things in which I believe. I am not a slave to my ideas, but I have some independence that I must bear. The main attribute of human independence is a right to choose what you should adhere to."
"I don't divide people into categories. I believe that each man on this Earth is different from another one. However I've got problems in talking to people, who don't want to make their dreams come true. I also have some scars in my soul. I have my minutes of sadness. But I always try to supersede it and to achieve what I dream about. I'm not saying that I don't like people, who don't realise their dreams, I just said that such people will never become my friends."
On filming the "Alchemist"
"When the "Alchemist" (it is my first successful book) was published in America, Warner Brothers bought the screening rights. And, honestly, I did not know how to behave in that situation, because a film was a natural continuation of the book for me. Then I realised that a reader sees this film in his head. And since then I never sold screening rights for my books to anybody. Unfortunately, screening rights for the "Alchemist" have already been sold by then. I offered a million dollars to get them back. Simply to keep the book, not to re-sell it. The negotiations have been held for 10 years and I don't agree with all scenarios. Now the scenario is an affair of Lawrence Fishborn. So one day you will probably see the "Alchemist" in cinema. But until I see something really moving I won't sell screening rights for my books."
On journalist work
"I worked as a journalist for many years. It helped me to regard things objectively and see what I want to write. I can't judge the work of journalists today, because for this I need to be in their milieu. It is very easy to speak about something in which you aren't involved. But journalists bear a big responsibility in representing current events in the world about which they write."
"My dream is to be a writer. When I write books I give away my soul and for me this is a part of "being human" - to share something. Each new book is a new challenge. My dream is not to become paralysed, to continue writing new books. Sometimes I wish not to wish this or that, but it is very important to handle it because life goes on. Therefore now I look at this beautiful mountain panorama and I write my new book. It makes me alive."
On copyright and control over translations
"How can I say what is the quality of Russian translation of my books? I don't know Russian! There are languages in which I can't even read my name. My books have been translated in 56 languages and published in 155 countries. Sometimes I understand that this is my book because I see my photo on it. It is sad. But I hope that people working on translations, do them with enthusiasm and I count on their honesty."
On power of the book
"I don't believe that a book can change something. I think that a book can provoke a deeply hidden reaction in a person. I am a reader myself. And when I read a book, it doesn't change my life, but it gives me a sensation that I am alone. When you realise it you receive big power. The reader is my companion. I can't teach people, I just provoke certain reactions deeply hidden inside. Who I am to teach somebody? I'm a pilgrim. I'm a man that learns. Now in Kazakhstan, I am going to go to steppes, because I feel that it's important for my knowledge. But I'm not learning, because I'm being taught. I'm learning because I'm open for everything new. That's life - it consists of such moments when we share something: me - with the readers, they do the same with me."
"I'm a free traveller. Sooner or later I would come to Kazakhstan. But when I met people from Kazakhstan, I thought: this is a sign and my wish should be realised. What is a country? The landscape, the city..? A country is people living there in the first place. I am not here for visiting museums or something. I am here to meet people. But a wish to see the steppe, a wish to meet people brought me here. I asked my friend Kaisar to take me around the city. We walked and it wasn't a certain route. We were in cafes, shops. And he asked me: "Don't you think that it is surreal - to come to a country and walk around supermarkets?" To which I responded that my way of getting to know a country, its culture, people. There are problems in communication related with the language, but it's no big deal, because the main communication was taking place through glances, understanding. And what I felt is that you are proud of what you are and that you honour your culture."
On favourite writers
"Henry Miller, Jorge Louis Borges, William Blake. These are writers whose books I'll keep re-reading. It is a pity that I could not find any book by Kazakhstani writers translated into English. I would have like to meet Kazakh writers, but it proved to be impossible. The task of such writers as me is to build bridges between various cultures."
"Yes, I am very rich. And I am proud that I have earned them with honest labour. When I told my mother that I was going to become a writer, she was horrified, she thought I wouldn't make a penny. But once I did reach success. What I do with my money? For instance, since I have come to Kazakhstan I haven't spent a penny, because I am a guest here. So it happens in other countries, in which I'm coming. I am always a guest. But I have always been rich. I used to travel around the world with a couple of dollars in the pocket. It happened when I was a hippy. For me being rich - means spending money for things that bring pleasure. I was rich when I had two hundred dollars in my pocket and I am rich now. Besides, in Brazil I have my own charity fund, which apart from other things takes care of 450 children from poor families, helps drug addicts, aged people and so on."
"When I was 10, we lived in Brazil, drank Coke, my father had an American car, my Mum - French perfume, and I dreamt of seeing Disneyland. So the globalisation existed even then, 50 years ago. But we have to be very careful so that the globalisation does not harm our cultural heritage. We can speak a lot about the globalisation, for me it is important that the process of exchange by national cultures keeps going. That people don't lose their ethnic spirit."
While Paulo was speaking, everybody was very attentive. But the situation was tense. Sometimes Paulo joked. When a cell phone rang in the hall, he said: "Yes! Hello!". And to a question from a journalist: "What you think about relations between a man and a woman. If marriages are made in Heaven, how can we speak about freedom in the marriage?" - he humbly answered: "I am not a consultant for marriages". After that he thanked everybody and then for a long time he was giving autographs, making photos and talking to people.
Paulo Coelho took a decision to come to Kazakhstan independently, when he heard a lot about the country. His visit will last more than one week. He plans to visit Astana, go to steppes and speak to people.
Also in the "In Depth"
09.01.2013 2012 marked by multiple events in Kazakhstan