When someone leaves, it’s because someone else is about to arrive.
– Paulo Coelho
I fought for the courage to leave my job on the newspaper and launch myself into the adventure of writing a book, knowing full well that in my country no one in my country could make a living as a writer. I gave up after a year, after having written more than a thousand pages – pages of such genius that even I couldn’t understand them.
While I was fighting, I heard other people speaking in the name of freedom, and the more they defended this unique right, the more enslaved they seemed to be to their parent’s wishes, to a marriage in which they had promised to stay with the other person ‘for the rest of their lives, to the bathroom scales, to their diet, to half-finished projects, to lovers to who they were incapable of saying ‘No’ or ‘It’s over;, to weekends when they were obliged to have lunch with people who they didn’t even like. Slaves to luxury, to the appearance luxury, to the appearance of the appearance luxury. Slaves to a life they had not chosen, but which they had decided to live because someone had managed to convince them that it was all for the best. And so their identical days and nights passed, days and nights in which adventure was just a word in a book or an image on the television that was always on, and whenever a door opened they would say:
‘I’m not interested. I’m not in the mood.’
How could they possible know if they were in the mood or not if they had never tried? But there is no point in asking; the truth was they were afraid of any change that would upset the world they were used to.
For my lovely Russian friend Lena.
When I wrote The Zahir, the main character says: writing is getting lost at sea. It’s discovering your own untold story and trying to share it with others. It’s realizing, when you show it to people you have never seen, what is in your own soul. In the book, a famous writer on spiritual matters, who believes he has everything, loses the thing that is most precious to him: love. I have always wondered what would happen to a man if he had no one to dream about, and now I am answering that question for myself.
When I used to read biographies of writers, I always thought that when they said: “The book writes itself, the writer is just the typist”, they were simply trying to make their profession seem more interesting. I know now that this is absolutely true, no one knows why the current took them to that particular island and not to the one they wanted to reach. Then the obsessive re-drafting and editing begins, and when I can no longer bear to re-read the same words one more time, I send it to my publisher, where it is edited again, and then published.
And it is a constant source of surprise to me to discover that other people were also in search of that very island and that they find it in my book. One person tells another person about it, the mysterious chain grows, and what the writer thought of as a solitary exercise becomes a bridge, a boat, a means by which souls can travel and communicate.
From then on, I am no longer the man lost in the storm: I find myself through my readers, I understand what I wrote when I see that others understand it too, but never before. On a few rare occasions, like the one that is about to take place, I manage to look those people in the eye and then I understand that my soul is not alone.
Once I heard an interviewer ask Paul McCartney: “Could you sum up the Beatles’ message in one sentence?” Tired of hearing the same question myself, I assumed McCartney would give some ironic response, after all, given the complexity of human beings, how can anyone possibly sum up a whole body of work in a few words?
But Paul said: “Yes, I can.” And he went on: “All you need is love. Do you want me to say more?”
No, said the interviewer, he didn’t. There was nothing more to be said. The Zahir could be summed up in the same way.
– Paulo Coelho
Writers write because they love to write, musicians because they love to play music.
It is something my lovely Russian friend Lena and I discussed as we sat on a beach by the sea, me getting burnt.
I have just finished reading The Eight. A gift from Lainee which I will now gift to Lena.
I am now reading The Zahir. I desired to read The Zahir and there was The Zahir waiting for me to pick it up.
My first encounter with Paulo Coelho was a lovely Lithuanian girl sat by a river reading The Zahir.
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
If we want something, all the universe conspires, even if we ourselves give it no further thought.
I awoke this morning with the thought: I would like to read The Zahir.
I then thought no more about it, the thought gone from my mind, and caught a train to Guildford to have lunch.
The first and only shop I walked into before lunch, there was a hardback copy of The Zahir staring me in the face.
Well I had no choice did I, I had to buy it, which I did.
I then continued on my way and had an excellent lunch at the Guildford Institute.
Friday lunch at the Guildford Institute is one of the best kept secrets in Guildford. It is one of the best places to eat in Guildford, but the only ones who know this have heard through word of mouth.
Waiting at Guildford railway station for a train home, I was chatting to a very attractive female from Latin America. I think she was surprised I knew Latin American authors. She was catching the Reading train, which actually was my train, but as it was rush hour and I hate overcrowded rush-hour trains, I went on a detour via Aldershot, but not first without giving her my e-mail address, as I said I would provide her details of download of the Paulo Coelho back catalogue at 99 cents for an e-book from Harper Collins in the USA.
Yesterday I made a deposit in the Favour Bank.
The Favour Bank is the world’s oldest and most powerful bank. It knows no frontiers. Its clients are rich and poor, Black and White, straight and gay, Muslim and Christian, warmongers and peacemakers, dreamers and realists. All are welcome through its doors.
I meet and help an aspiring writer. I connect his books with people who if they read and like I know they will do the same. I arrange that he is invited to a book festival. Good writers are known not by marketing hype but by word of mouth.
Investment banking is a risky business.
My aspiring writer may achieve his dreams. If he succeeds he may forget how he got there. He may think it was the least he deserved. He may forget or even refuse his payments to the Favour Bank. But should he be so foolish he will find his credit vanishes overnight.
My introduction to Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho was a beautiful Lithuanian girl sat by the River Wey outside a pub in Guildford. She was reading The Zahir. I was curious what had her so engrossed. We got chatting. She told me of Paulo Coelho and suggested I read his books. [see Synchronicity and Paulo Coelho]
Yesterday I met a beautiful Black girl. We got chatting. She was curious of the book I had, The Zahir, as she had never come across the author Paulo Coelho. I explained who he was, told her a little of The Zahir. I must find and read it she said. To her great pleasure and surprise I gave her my copy of The Zahir. I said if she got in touch I would also give her a copy of The Alchemist. Had I thought of it I would have invited her to join me for lunch today, but I did not think of it until later.
Yesterday I repaid a favour to the Favour Bank.
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? — Luke 15:4
We can harness the energy of the winds, the seas, the sun. But the day man learns to harness the energy of love, that will be as important as the discovery of fire. — Teilhard de Chardin
Others will dream that I am mad, and I [will dream] of the Zahir. When all men on earth think day and night of the Zahir, which one will be a dream and which a reality, the earth or the Zahir? — Jorge Luis Borges
I accept the Zahir, and will let it lead me into a state of either holiness or madness. — Paulo Coelho
Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused. — Paulo Coelho
The person you love leaves, walks out of your life. You are heart broken. Why?
You walk down the street, you see her, your heart stops. Then you realise it is not her.
Why is the sun shining? Why is it not dull to match your mood? Why are people smiling, looking happy? Do they not realise your heart is in torment? But then on second thoughts, they do not look happy, they are not smiling, maybe they have problems too.
Your phone rings. Once again your heart stops. But no, it is not her.
The pleasures of life are gone, your life is empty.
Bob Geldof in a recent reflection on his life, spoke of the unbelievable pain when his wife left him. One way he was able to cope was to go into a studio and lay down tracks for a new album.
You think of suicide. What point is there in going on?
Thoughts go round and round in your mind.
You loved her more than you thought possible. Could she not see that? Why did she say that not matter how much you loved her it was nothing to how much she loved you, then walk off like a thief in the night?
You would give anything to see her lovely smile, to see the love in her eyes, to see her face light up when she sees you.
Slowly slowly you are going mad.
The Zahir is an Islamic tradition. A thought occupies your mind until you can think of nothing else. It is the route to holiness or madness.
When I had nothing more to lose, I was given everything. When I ceased to be who I am, I found myself. When I experienced humiliation and yet kept on walking, I understood that I was free to choose my destiny. Perhap’s there’s something wrong with me, I don’t know, perhaps my marriage was a dream I couldn’t understand whilst it lasted. All I know is that even though I can live without her, I would still like to see her again, to say what I never said when we were together: I love you more than I love myself. If I could say that, then I could go on living, at peace with myself, because that love has redeemed me.
Divine love is that from God.
The Zahir is a love story, it describes the pain a man experiences when his wife leaves him. A man whose life not dissimilar to that of the author Paulo Coelho. It is a journey, a journey to find the lost wife but also a spiritual journey of understanding into himself.
Critics do not like Paulo Coelho. They write the same garbage, only the title of the book changes. One of the worst was a review of The Zahir by Adam Mars-Jones in The Observer. Less a review, more a vitriolic hate-filled attack on Paulo Coelho. With crass comments like ‘Paulo Coelho hurtling towards stupidity as he reaches for wisdom in The Zahir’ and ‘Paulo Coelho writes because he wants to be loved. I read because I want to be interested. At this point it’s hard to say which of us is the more disappointed’, you get the picture! And so it goes on and on and on …
The Zahir was my introduction to Paulo Coelho. I was sitting outside a pub by the River Wey in Guildford and got chatting with a beautiful girl who was engrossed in The Zahir. I was curious what had her so engrossed. At the time Paulo Coelho was an unknown author to me.
I was sufficiently impressed by The Zahir, that I walked into a bookshop, bought their entire stock of hardbacks, then gave them all away to friends as gifts.
For my lovely friend Sian who I miss.
Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2011 12:31:56 -0800 (PST)
From: Arash Hejazi
First of all, happy new year and sorry for my belated greetings. As I know you receive tons of emails during the new year, I thought you won’t be eager to receive just another one This doesn’t mean that we didn’t think of you at the New Years eve. Since we spent our new year eve at Lourdes in 2001, every year we think of you at about the same time.
Secondly, unfortunately I was informed today that the Ministry of Culture and ‘Islamic Guidance’ in Iran has banned all of your books, even the unauthorized versions published by other publishers. My friends have been told that no book that has Paulo Coelho’s name on it will be authorized to be published in Iran any more.
This is bad news, but I also thought may be it’s time to make your books freely available on Internet in Persian. I haven’t found any way to commercialize this, as there is no way for e-commerce in Iran (people cannot buy anything from outside Iran). But I thought if we can find a proper charity cause, we can ask anyone who downloads one of your books in Farsi to donate some money to that charity. If you agree to this, we will have to discuss the nature of the Charity. If so, I am ready to translate Aleph and make it available this way. As these are your books, I leave the decision about their destiny in your hands.
I also think it might be the time for you to comment on this, at least in your blog, if you want to. Your books have been banned with no explanation, and your Iranian readers are anxious to hear about it from you. We can further discuss it if you wish.
10 Janeiro 2011
1] My books have been published in Iran since 1998, in different publishing houses (Caravan Books, directed by Arash Hejazi, is the only official publisher). So far, we estimated that there are over 6 million copies sold in the country.
2] My books have been published under different governments in Iran. An arbitrary decision, after 12 years of publication in the country, can only be a misunderstanding.
3] In 2009, I used the social communities to support Arash’s ordeal after the elections. You can read the post The Doctor.
4] I hope this misunderstanding will be solved during this week. And I strongly count on the Brazilian Government to support me, my books, for the sake of all the values we cherish.
10 Janeiro 2011 16:15 hr
The Brazilian Minister of Culture and the president of Funarte manifested their concern about the ban of my books in Iran. [see Minister deplores Iran's censorship of books by Paulo Coelho (Google Translator)]
11 Janeiro 2011
1] The Brazilian Minister of Culture, Ana de Hollanda, is in contact with the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Patriota. They are currently studying the next steps to be taken. I thank the Brazilian Govt. for the strong support in this issue.
2] I am not naive. Therefore, I still believe that this arbitrary decision was taken from a low-ranking official in Iran. I repeat: it makes no sense to forbid books that were being published for this past 12 years. The contents of the books did not change – they are still the same.
3] Today the Iran Book News Agency published “Paulo Coelho Opinions Reviewed”. It is my understanding that this is not the official position of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
4] I am honestly hoping that sooner or later the Islamic Republic of Iran will reconsider (or eventually deny) the ban.
5] As soon as I have the files in Farsi, all my books will be posted for free in this blog.
12 Janeiro 2011
1] I had a long conversation with one of the top persons in the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are still waiting for a confirmation from the Iranian authorities on the veto (or on the absence of it). Both the Brazilian Embassy in Tehran and from The Iranian Embassy in Brasil. However, the top official told me, the Brazilian Govt. will not accept the absence of an answer as an answer.
The surprise is not that books by Paulo Coelho have been banned, the surprise is that they have not been sooner or that publication was permitted by the thought police.
Somewhat unusual, The Zahir was published in Persian in Iran, rather than in the author’s native language in Brazil. Iran does not recognise international copyright and it was thought that publication in Iran first would afford some protection under national Iranian copyright law.
The Zahir was not available for long. Iranian intelligence agents went to the Tehran Book Fair and seized all 1,000 copies. Like a scene out of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Stalinist Russia, the publisher was told the book was banned in Iran and he must report to the authorities. The ruling Islamists fear that by reading a book of deep spiritual significance, the faithful would be drawn away from the true path of Islam. [see Iran 'bans author Coelho's novel']
Iran should be flooded with copies in Farsi. Audio books should be recorded in Farsi, and these too flood the country.
– Be Like the Flowing River
– By the River Piedra I sat down and Wept
– Stories for fathers sons and grandsons
– The Devil & Miss Prym
– The Fifth Mountain
– The Gift
– The Love Letters of a Prophet
– The Manual of the Warrior of the Light
– The Valkyries
– The Winner Stands Alone
– The Witch of Portobello
– Veronika Decides to Die
- The Zahir
To ban the books is unIslamic, but is that going to bother the evil people who run Iran? [see Reconciliation]
Top Story in The Censorship Daily (Wednesday 12 January 2011)
In one of my books (The Zahir), I try to understand why people are so afraid of changing. When I was right in the middle of writing the text, I came across an odd interview with a woman who had just written a book on – guess what? – love.
The journalist asks whether the only way a human being can become happy is to find their beloved. The woman says no:
“Love changes, and nobody understands that. The idea that love leads to happiness is a modern invention, dating from the late 17th century. From that time on, people have learned to believe that love should last for ever and that marriage is the best way to exercise love. In the past there was not so much optimism about the longevity of passion.
“Romeo and Juliet isn’t a happy story, it’s a tragedy. In the last few decades, expectation has grown a lot regarding marriage being the path towards personal accomplishment. Disappointment and dissatisfaction have also grown at the same time.”
According to the magical practices of the witchdoctors in the North of Mexico, there is always an event in our lives that is responsible for our having stopped making progress. A trauma, a particularly bitter defeat, disappointment in love, even a victory that we fail to quite understand, ends up making us act cowardly and incapable of moving ahead. The witchdoctor finds and gets rid of this “accommodating point”. To do so, he has to review our life and discover where this point lies.
Because, according to the story that we were told, at a certain moment in our lives “we reach our limit”. There are no more changes to be made. We won’t grow any more. Both professionally and in love, we have reached the ideal point, and it’s best to leave things as they are. But the truth is that we can always go further. Love more, live more, risk more.
Immobility is never the best solution. Because everything around us changes (including love) and we must accompany that rhythm.
I have been married to the same person for 30 years, but methaphorically speaking, the same marriage contains several “new marriages” during our relationship. Our bodies and souls changed, and we are still togeher. If we wanted to keep on as we were in 1979, I don’t think we would have come so far.
These thoughts by Paulo Coelho very much parallel a conversation I had with my lovely friend Sian not so long ago.
I pictured two people as trajectories in time and space. When they meet, their paths literally cross. They have something in common. If their current trajectories continue they will diverge apart and eventually have nothing in common. They will only remain together if their individual trajectories change course and their trajectories then continue on a common path.
I met Sian in a Christian book shop cum tea shop. She said she had been working there for about a year, though I had never noticed her before. We got chatting and were completely absorbed in each others company and have been ever since.
What went through our individual minds and what we saw and felt I will not say. But Sian is free to make comment if she so wishes.
I have often found that people hit a brick wall in their personal development. What then happens is not that they fail to make any further progress, they die.
Synchronicity: The evening before St Valentine’s Day, I put together a little something for Sian to give to her on St Valentine’s Day. Included was The Zahir as it seemed somehow appropriate. I then sat down and clicked on these thoughts by Paul Coelho which came to him whilst writing The Zahir!