Being born in Brazil, in the family of an engineer and a housewife, Paulo Coelho dreamt to become a famous artist and a writer from the moment he won his first prize in literature, in poetry precisely.. Although as a boy Coelho was fond of literature, his parents were against this dream. They even locked him in a special lunatic establishment, but that did not stop Paulo to persuade his dream. Nowadays, his novels are written mostly in Portuguese and translated into many other languages. Moreover, today Paulo Coelho works are the most readable ones. Eventually, he has gotten his awards in literature, and although his parents are still not so fond of the way he is living, at least they accepted their son’s choice.
His first book Hell Archives did not make any great influence in the literature; moreover, Coelho himself considers this and his second book as his failure. After Paulo Coelho took his pilgrimage trip to Santiago de Compostela, his literature career was again awakened. His book Pilgrimage was dedicated to this trip, while the publication of Coelho’s other work, the real Brazilian and worldwide bestseller later, Alchemist can be considered as the real beginning of the writer’s career and one of the most best-selling books in the whole history of literature. With his Alchemist Paulo Coelho was awarded Guinness Prize and this exact book was recorded in the Guinness World Record as the most translated book in the history. The author who knows this life, who has experienced many different things himself, Paulo Coelho always tries to put all his experiences in his books. In every book, the themes of the stories are very different from each other and yet one can always tell that this is Coelho’s style of writing. Still a reader can also always find the strong pattern in every Coelho’s work. The central themes, for example, in Coelho’s stories are love, religion, the eternal battle of good and evil with the image of this exact evil. The theme of love you can find in almost every his novel, where Paulo Coelho considers love as something new and in the same time as some feeling as old as the humanity.
The author expresses love as something really powerful, sometimes challenging, sometimes easy to get; as a big journey, an endless journey that is living with humans and following them into the future. However, one of the strongest themes in his stories still stays the battle between good and evil, where both good and evil are the standard things of everyone’s existence and every human-being has it both. It is not just a coincidence that every fairytale has a good and an evil side, and it is not a coincidence that Paulo Coelho used this theme in his stories too. For instance, in his The Devil and Miss Prim, Coelho tries to explore this topic by looking inside the small society. The author puts this small community in front of many temptations made by the evil and during the whole this story he is watching how people are dealing with greed, fears, and anger. Chantal Prim, in this novel, is what the author calls a pure image of goodness, forgiveness and kindness in this small society. Exactly, Chantal is the one who can fight against all evil that is surrounding her.
The other strong concept in Coelho’s work is his references to some Greater Powers, to God, as well as to Allah. In almost every his novel, readers can see one such character to whom the author is referring as something more than just an ordinary human-being. For instance, in the story that was mentioned earlier, the priest is described like someone saint or like some angel who came into this small community straight from heaven. Basically, Paulo Coelho, in his works, is trying to answer all fundamental questions for his readers; he is trying to reveal his readers all sides of simple things in life. Mostly, Coelho’s themes are surrounded around people’s humanity. Coelho thinks that exactly ordinary daily things can be universal, not things one used to think of as some extraordinary things. However, among all works written by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist and Veronica Decides to Die are the two works that brightly differ from others. Is there something similar in these two works, or if not, what differences then one can see reading both this books?
As it was mentioned previously, The Alchemist is the most popular work that is written by Paulo Coelho. This novel is an allegory that is telling readers about the alchemist and his following with the young shepherd whose name is Santiago to Egypt. Both of them truly believe that exactly in this country, they both will find their treasure and their dream. Once Santiago was told by one gypsy that only in Egypt, in the country of Pyramids, he will find his treasure. However, earlier in this novel a young shepherd met an old king Melchizedek who is trying to lure Santiago into a deal: he will sell his sheep in order to travel to Egypt where Santiago can pursue his “Personal Legend”. The idea of “Personal Legend” is represented in this story as some dream, some goal you want to accomplish in your life. Moreover, these two words “Personal Legend” are always stressed and capitalized in the novel. Paulo Coelho wanted to show his readers that everyone has their “Personal Legend” when they are young. The universe, all greater powers help one to achieve it once he/she really wants it. This is the main idea of the whole novel. There is no doubt that on his way Santiago meets danger, challenges, love, some disaster, but the main thing is that on his way he also learns many new things about himself, his inner world, and about this world too. During his journey to dream, Santiago meets an Arabian girl whose name is Fatima and she gives the young shepherd great advice to always follow his heart. Later, the young shepherd also meets with a lonely alchemist, who is sharing with Santiago his own dreams and goals. The alchemist teaches the young shepherd his own philosophy, he states that in the most cases what really people want is not to find their “Personal Legend”, but just the treasure, the core of it. From alchemist’s words Santiago understands that he is in the middle of his journey; however, he does not know whether he wants to really find his dream or just the treasure of it.
Then alchemist also states that one needs to understand his “Personal Legend”, because if one does not understand it, he or she might also fail in comprehending it. The protagonist in this novel is Santiago, who is quite mature despite his youth and who in pursuing his treasures left his home and went on trip to his dream country. Santiago is the boy, who values highly his own freedom and who is open to his dreams, that is why he is exactly the one who meets an old Alchemist. Being worn in black, the Alchemist lives in the oasis near Egypt and is about 200 years old.
One of main themes that Paulo Coelho described in his The Alchemist is the theme of love, of something greater and divine as “Personal Legend”, search for one’s true destiny. First of all, if one speaks about love in The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho describes it as something endless and as old as humanity. Coelho thinks of love as something timeless or even older than time itself. The author states that everyone on this planet is capable of love and being loved; everyone should understand with their heart when love comes. Sometimes Coelho even compares Santiago’s journey to his treasure with the journey, which is called love. The second main theme of The Alchemist is the one about “Personal Legend”. It was mentioned earlier that in his works, Coelho used to describe some greater powers with the help of different images or people who mirror these images. So, in The Alchemist the whole story rotates around this “Personal Legend” and the treasure of it. The author states to his readers often that the universe is that thing, which is pushing everyone towards their own “Personal Legends” and theirs treasures. In this novel, the main character also discusses the meaning of these treasures in the future and the influence of Allah on finding them. Moreover, the last but not the least meaningful is the theme about one’s destiny, how much impact it has on everyone’s life and on their own life journeys. Santiago was a very good son who eventually decided to pursue his own dreams and his own destiny. Once he saw a dream about sleeping near some tree in the desert, he made a decision to go in the journey to his dream country. The allegory in The Alchemist shows its readers the spiritual meaning of Santiago’s journey. This pilgrimage journey made by simple shepherd Santiago is the core of the whole story, its philosophical core.
Another great novel written by Paulo Coelho is called Veronica Decides to Die. It tells its readers a story about a 24 years old girl, whose name is Veronica. This girl has everything: a good job, a loyal lover, beauty, beloved family, but still she is truly unhappy. She understands that despite everything she has, there is a huge hole in her soul that is eating her from the inside. That is the moment when Veronica decides to die. She sits down holding her bottle of pills in her hands and it seems like she is trying to somehow remember this moment between just intention and an actual action, so she starts swallowing pills one by one. First, it is the darkness, but in some moments comes the hole, comes nothing. However, despite her attempts, Veronica does not succeed in her actions. She wakes up like from some bad dream; however, she finds herself not in piece somewhere on the other side, locked in the mental institution.
Then Veronica finds out that her action caused a serious damage to her heart and that she has only several days left before she will die. Now Veronica has no choice left except waiting for her end. Although the girl gets to her initial wish, during the last days of her life, Veronica sees it in a very different light. She is bothered now with existence, with even simple sun outside the window. One day she wakes up and suddenly finds out that everything is changing, and not so outside this building, but inside her. Now she understands that during her last days of life, the survival takes its holds. She understands the whole meaning of relationships, of some events in her life and although her doctor made Veronica see life in the other light, still the girl decides to pursue the end of her life that she has chosen previously. Veronica Decides to Die is an extraordinary kind of novel. Moreover, it shows us a bit of author’s personal life and his understanding, his experience previously in institutions for mentally disabled people. Paulo Coelho opens his readers the meaning of reality, whether it is always real and actual or not. This story shows what it is like to be different and that no one should be ashamed of it; in fact, there is nothing shameful about it. The author describes the feeling that almost everyone in this world has felt – the feeling of being lost. As in all his stories, Paulo Coelho through his main character is thinking about God’s existence, about death as the ticket for the real freedom.
That is where readers and critics can see some similarities between Veronica Decides to Die and The Alchemist. In both novels, Paulo Coelho stresses readers’ attention to the searching of some greater and divine powers. Veronica is seeking for answer whether God exists or not, while Santiago is seeking for his dreamy treasure, his “Personal Legend”. As a matter of fact, both characters are looking for something to believe in, and to live for. Moreover, both in The Alchemist and Veronica Decides to Die readers have to deal with two sides of the main characters. Firstly, it is like one is dealing with two Veronicas, where one of them is lost and a suicidal young girl, while another Veronica is the daughter of director of this mental institution she is lying in. In The Alchemist, readers also are dealing with two Santiagos, where the first one is a good son, who visits church every Sunday and who always helps his old father, while another Santiago is not a mature man inside who wants to make his dreams true, to have his freedom, and to find his own treasure, his own destiny to live in this world. However, despite these few similarities, both novels are very different at the same time.
Furthermore, the main thing is that Santiago is shown as a man with goals and dreams, while Veronica, a young girl with a great future, thinks that she has no goals and nothing to live for and that is why he, eventually, decides to die. Moreover, the message of The Alchemist is to follow your destiny and dreams, while the message in Veronica Decides to Die is to look around, to stop and just enjoy the life around and to find these motives worth living for by your own. Santiago is a character who is enjoying his life and who is persuaded that everyone needs to live every day and every moment. Veronica otherwise is an opposite of Santiago. The girl forgot how to live fully at all; she has everything and at the same time, she has nothing. She forgot to cherish every day and every single person who loves her and cares about her and instead of this Veronica began living only being several steps away from her death. In both novels, Paulo Coelho uses symbolism to express every feeling or message that he wanted to send his readers. For instance, in The Alchemist through symbolism author tells that one should not forget who he is; he should not forget that mostly everyone’s destiny is laid before him.
That is why, eventually, the main character Santiago listens to his sort of signs, as his dream for example, and simply follows it. While in Veronica Decides to Die through its symbolism or mainly through bright descriptions, for example the view outside, the sun shining, the author is trying to explain his readers that sometimes we do not need any motives to live, life itself is worth to continue living. Self-exploring, different stories, different messages they are bringing, two kinds of life journeys – that is the most intriguing things, which makes Coelho’s works so popular and so readable. Both stories that are mentioned previously are not very long ones, but while reading it one can feel the whole spectrum of different emotions. Moreover, both these books are recommended to read for people who have lost their faith in anything, or who thinks that their life has no meaning – in these cases The Alchemist and Veronica Decides to Die will become one’s new best friends.
In conclusion, it seems like Paulo Coelho is the master of inspirational stories. Lastly, his novels mostly contain some supernatural elements, but almost all of them states that life is a great thing; that love is an eternal thing that can change this world; that something, whether it is a destiny or God, himself helps are during all this life and sends everyone sign what path to choose, what road to go on.