Saturday, October 28, 2006

An Alchemist’s Pilgrimage

An Alchemist’s Pilgrimage
Best-Selling Author Paulo Coelho’s Journey Among the Armenians
By Khatchig Mouradian

The Armenian Weekly
October 28, 2006

“This book, telling the story of a shepherd boy named Santiago, is about following your dreams,” said my Chinese friend.

“Its message is powerful and simple: If you really believe in something, the whole universe conspires with you to achieve it. Take it to Beirut with you and read it,” she continued.

Thousands of miles away from home, I was being offered a book I had on my own bookshelf, but had never read. Thus, on September 10, 2000, in Shenyang, China, my story with The Alchemist had begun.

As I was reading the book on the plane on my way back, I felt I could easily relate to the message of the novel: We had to go to far away lands, sometimes, to find treasures hidden in our backyard.

“I will translate this book to Armenian one day,” I thought, as the captain was announcing our arrival at the Beirut International Airport.

In October 2003, I started interviewing writers, artists and academics from around the world for the Lebanese-Armenian daily newspaper Aztag. “My first interviewee ought to be the author of The Alchemist,” I thought.

I emailed the author’s literary agency requesting an interview and, much to my surprise, I received a positive response. One of the top best-selling authors of the world had agreed to share his thoughts with a small community newspaper in Beirut.

The last question I asked Paulo Coelho was whether there were plans to translate his book, The Alchemist, to Armenian. Already translated into 54 languages, I felt it was time Armenians read the book in their mother tongue. He expressed hope that a publishing house would be interested in such an endeavor.

On October 30, the interview appeared in Aztag. A few days later, I received a phone call from the Hamazkayin publishing house in Beirut. “We would love to have The Alchemist translated to Armenian. Would you be interested in translating it?” asked the voice on the other side.

I remembered my Chinese friend, Paulo Coelho’s quote about wanting something, and the wish I had expressed on my flight to Beirut. When we obtained the rights from Coelho’s literary agency, the shepherd boy Santiago in me was thrilled.

A year later, I was holding the first copy of my translation of The Alchemist. I flipped to page 5 where the Translator’s Foreword appeared, titled “the 55th [translation].” There, I had told my story with the book, without knowing it was not yet over. In a few hours, I had a plane to catch to Yerevan, where I would be joined by Paulo Coelho himself for a series of book events.

The Pilgrimage

A large crowd of journalist, photographers and cameramen had gathered right outside the VIP Lounge at the Zvartnots Airport in Yerevan. “Where is Khatchig?” asked the man in dark clothes coming out of the VIP room. As I approached and we embraced, he made his first statement to the media: “He is too young to be a translator.”

“And too old to be Santiago,” I thought.

“The Pilgrim has arrived to the land of Pilgrimages: to yerkir Hayastan,” wrote the daily Hayastani Hanrapetudyun a few days later.

As Armenia was bracing for the greatest literary events in its history, Coelho had other things in mind. He had an Armenian driver, he went to Armenian restaurants in Paris, he had met many Armenians in the Diaspora and heard so much about their heritage and their country, and now, he was on a pilgrimage to discover both, first-hand.

We strolled in the streets of Yerevan that night. The following day, when he was asked about his impressions of the city, he said that the buildings and streets are almost the same everywhere around the world. “It is the people that make the difference, and my best impression was the people,” he added.

Weeks before his arrival, as we were preparing the program of his week-long visit, Coelho’s literary agency stressed that the author wanted to spend time with the people, with his readers, and that official meetings had to be minimal. We ended up including lunch with the president of Armenia Robert Kocharian at the Parajanov Museum, a visit to the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II at Etchmiadzin, and a meeting with the Minister of Culture Hovig Hoveyan in the program.

On October 6, 2004, the book-launching event dedicated to the translation into Armenian of The Alchemist took place at the Writers’ Union Great Hall. Organized by Hamazkayin and the Writers’ Union of Armenia, the event was a huge success. The hall was packed with people hours before the event, and hundreds of latecomers waited outside, pushing at the gates that were closed because the hall couldn’t handle any more people.

In my introductory speech, I told my story with The Alchemist, beginning, as always, in China. I said, “Just like Paulo, I, too, believe we have to go to far away lands, sometimes, to find treasures hidden in our backyard. And for us, Diaspora Armenians, whose grandparents had to walk through deserts in much harsher conditions than Santiago did in his quest, the real treasures are hidden here, in Armenia, whether we realize it or not.”

In his speech, Coelho, who Publishing Trends had declared the number one best-selling author a year before, also alluded to the Armenian Diaspora saying he believed that one day, Diaspora Armenians would return, like rain, to the land of their ancestors, bringing with them all that they have learned and accomplished.

“At the Writers’ Union Hall there was no room to cast a needle,” wrote the weekly Yerkir in its coverage of the event. “We cannot recall any other time when that hall was packed like that.” In its history, the Writers’ Union had witnessed such an event only once, and that was during the visit of William Saroyan to Yerevan, wrote Grakan Tert.

Coelho’s second meeting with Armenian readers came two days later in the Tcharents Hall at Yerevan State University. Some 900 people packed the hall, with many sitting on the floor or leaning against the walls. Coelho said he did not want to give a speech and, instead, invited 10 students to the podium and gave them each a chance to ask a question.

I was translating Paulo’s answers to Armenian. At one point, replying to a question on his most recent novel Eleven Minutes, Paulo started talking about sex. While I was having difficulty translating words like “masturbation,” “orgasm”, “penis” and “vagina,” and blushing every now and then, the audience was having a blast. Rarely, if ever, had a speaker talked so openly about sex on that podium.

Asked whether at some point he would write a novel on Armenia, Coelho said he never plans in advance what to write about. He compared himself to a sailor who sets out without having a specific destination. “I do not know if I will write a novel about Armenia,” he said. “But Armenia wrote a novel in my heart.”

A day later, the daily Azg wrote: “From the meetings of Paulo Coelho with the public in Yerevan, it became clear that it is not true to say the Armenian reader has became indifferent towards literature.”

In the following days, Coelho lay wreaths at the Armenian Genocide memorial, visited the Genocide Museum, and planted a tree at the memorial garden in Dzidzernagapert. He also went to Oshagan on Holy Translators’ Day, and lay a flower on the tomb of Mesrob Mashdots, the creator of the Armenian alphabet.

He was particularly impressed by the fact that the Armenians sanctified their translators, who enlightened their people after the alphabet was discovered. He said he had toured the world and had never encountered such a practice. Coelho later wrote an article, syndicated in newspapers around the world, on his visit to Armenia and specifically his impressions from the Holy Translators’ Day.

It was impossible to walk even a few steps on the streets in Yerevan without encountering an admirer of Coelho’s work asking for an autograph. He patiently autographed books for everyone. The utmost respect and love he showed to each and every reader was heartwarming indeed.

Once, when we were visiting the vernissage, the open-air art market in Yerevan, a painter in his 70s approached and hugged the author, giving him a painting as a gift. “Tell the world we love life, and we will prevail in the face of economic and political difficulties,” said the painter. His words, full of determination, reminded me of Paulo’s literary style: simple, but powerful, inspiring and heartwarming.

Before we knew it, we were at the Zvartnots Airport again. “Partir, c’est mourir un peu” (Leaving is a bit like dying), say the French. “Heratsman mech el ga mi veratarts” (There is a return in every departure), says an Armenian song. I believe in the latter.


Recently, I asked Paulo to send an email and wish a happy birthday to a female friend of mine, who is a great fan of his.

“A man in love asks, and a man who respects love obeys,” he wrote her a day later. “Happy Birthday!” As always, Paulo had found the best way to reach the heart of his readers.

Le Pèlerinage d'un Alchimiste

Le Pèlerinage d'un Alchimiste
Le voyage parmi les Arméniens de l'auteur à succès Paulo Coelho

Par Khatchig Mouradian
"The Armenian Weekly"
28 octobre 2006

Traduction Louise Kiffer

"Ce voyage, qui raconte l'histoire d'un jeune berger nommé Santiago, va peupler vos rêves" m'a dit une amie chinoise.

"Son message est puissant et simple: Si vous croyez réellement à quelque chose, tout l'univers conspire avec vous pour l'atteindre. Emportez-le à Beyrouth avec vous et lisez-le", continua-t-elle.

A des milliers de km de chez moi, on m'offrait un livre que j'avais dans ma propre bibliothèque, mais que je n'avais jamais lu. C'est ainsi qu'a commencé, le 10 septembre 2000, à Shenyang, en Chine, mon histoire avec L'Alchimiste.

En lisant le livre dans l'avion du retour, j'ai senti que je pourrais facilement transmettre le message du roman: Il nous fallait parfois aller dans des terres lointaines, pour trouver des trésors cachés dans notre arrière-cour.

Tandis que le pilote annonçait notre arrivée à l'aéroport international de Beyrouth, je me suis dit: "Je traduirai un jour ce livre en arménien".

En octobre 2003, j'ai commencé à interviewer des écrivains, des artistes et des universitaires de par le monde pour le quotidien arméno-libanais Aztag. "Ma première interview devrait être celle de l'auteur de "L'Alchimiste" ai-je pensé.

J'ai adressé un e-mail à l'agent littéraire de l'auteur pour demander une interview et, à ma grande surprise, j'ai reçu une réponse affirmative. L'un des plus grands auteurs à succès du monde consentait à partager ses pensées avec un petit journal de communauté de Beyrouth.

La dernière question que j'ai posée à Paulo Coelho fut s'ils avaient des projets de traduire son livre "L'Alchimiste" en arménien. Ce livre, déjà traduit en 54 langues, je sentais qu'il était temps que les Arméniens le lisent dans leur langue maternelle. Il exprima l'espoir qu'une maison d'édition serait intéressée par une telle initiative.

Le 30 octobre, l'interview parut dans Aztag. Quelques jours plus tard, je reçus un appel téléphonique de la maison d'édition Hamazkayin de Beyrouth. "Nous serions enchantés d'avoir L'Alchimiste traduit en arménien. Cela vous intéresserait-il de le traduire ?" demanda une voix à l'autre bout de la ligne.

Je me suis remémoré mon amie chinoise, la citation de Paulo Coelho sur le désir de quelque chose, et le souhait que j'avais exprimé lors de mon vol vers Beyrouth. Lorsque nous avons obtenu les droits de l'agence littéraire de Coelho, le jeune berger Santiago en moi fut ravi.

Un an après, je tenais le premier exemplaire de ma traduction de L'Alchimiste. J'ai consulté aussitôt la page 5 où paraissait la Préface du Traducteur, intitulée "55ème [traduction]". J'avais raconté là mon histoire avec le livre, sans savoir que ce n'était pas encore terminé. Dans quelques heures, je devais prendre l'avion pour Erevan, où je serais rejoint par Paulo Coelho en personne pour une série d'événements littéraires.

Le Pèlerinage.

Une grande foule de journalistes, photographes et cameramanes s'était réunie devant le Salon de réception de l'aéroport de Zvartnots d'Erevan. "Où est Khatchig ?" demanda l'homme à l'habit sombre sortant de la pièce des VIP. Comme je m'approchais et que nous nous embrassions, il fit sa première déclaration aux media: "Il est trop jeune pour être traducteur"

"et trop vieux pour être Santiago" pensai-je.

"Le Pèlerin est arrivé au pays des Pèlerinages: au pays Hayastan" (Arménie) écrivit le quotidien "Hayastani Hanrapetudyun" (La République d'Arménie) quelques jours plus tard.

Alors que l'Arménie se préparait à l'un des plus grands événements littéraires de son histoire, Coelho avait autre chose en tête. Il avait un chauffeur arménien, il avait été dans des restaurants arméniens à Paris, il avait rencontré de nombreux Arméniens de la Diaspora, et entendu tant de choses sur leur patrimoine et leur pays, et voilà qu'il était en pèlerinage pour découvrir tout cela, de première main.

Nous avons flâné dans les rues d'Erevan cette nuit-là. Le lendemain, quand on lui demanda ses impressions sur la ville, il dit que les immeubles et les rues étaient presque les mêmes partout dans le monde. "Ce sont les gens qui font la différence, et ma meilleure impression a été le peuple" ajouta-t-il.

Plusieurs semaines avant son arrivée, comme nous étions en train de préparer le programme de sa semaine de visite, l'agent littéraire de Coelho avait précisé que l'auteur désirait passer un certain temps avec les gens, avec ses lecteurs, et que les réunions officielles devaient être réduites au minimum. Nous avons fini par inclure dans le programme un lunch avec le Président d'Arménie Robert Kotcharian au Museum Paradjanov, une visite au Catholicos de tous les Arméniens Karékine II à Etchmiadzine, et une réunion avec le Ministre de la Culture
Hovig Hoveyan.

Le 6 octobre 2004, le lancement du livre, consacré à la traduction en arménien de "L'Alchimiste" eut lieu dans la Grande Salle de l'Union des Ecrivains. Organisé par Hamazkayine et l'Union des Ecrivains d'Arménie, l'événement eut un immense succès.
La salle était bondée de gens, des heures avant le début, et des centaines de retardataires attendaient dehors, poussant les grilles, qui étaient fermées car la salle ne pouvait pas contenir plus de monde.

Dans mon discours d'introduction, j'ai raconté mon histoire avec L'Alchimiste, en commençant, comme toujours, par la Chine. J'ai dit: "Exactement comme Paulo, je crois, moi aussi, qu'il nous faut quelquefois aller dans des pays lointains, pour trouver des trésors cachés dans notre arrière-cour. Et pour nous, Arméniens de la Diaspora, dont les grands-parents durent marcher à travers les déserts dans des conditions encore plus pénibles que le fit Santiago dans sa quête, les véritables trésors sont cachés ici, en Arménie, que nous nous en rendions compte ou non."

Dans son discours, Coelho, que les Publishing Trends (Editions Branchées, ndt) ont déclaré le N° 1 des auteurs à succès il y a un an, a également fait allusion aux Arméniens de Diaspora, disant qu'il pensait qu'un jour, ceux-ci retourneraient, comme la pluie, au pays de leurs ancêtres, apportant avec eux tout ce qu'ils avaient appris et accompli.

"Dans la salle de l'Union des Ecrivains, il n'y avait pas de place pour mettre une aiguille dans un tas de foin" écrivit l'hebdomadaire Yerkir dans son compte-rendu de l'événement. "Nous ne pouvons pas nous rappeler une autre fois où la salle était bondée comme cela". Dans son histoire, l'Union des Ecrivains n'avait été témoin d'un événement semblable qu'une seule fois, c'était lors de la visite de William Saroyan à Erevan, écrivit Grakan Tert.(Bulletin littéraire).

La seconde réunion de Coelho avec les lecteurs arméniens eut lieu deux jours plus tard dans la Salle Tcharents de l'Université d'Etat d'Erevan. La salle était bondée de 900 personnes, dont un grand nombre assis par terre ou adossé aux murs. Coelho dit qu'il ne voulait pas prononcer un discours, et à la place, invita 10 étudiants sur l'estrade et donna à chacun une occasion de poser une question.

Je traduisais en arménien les réponses de Paulo. A un certain moment, répondant à une question sur son dernier roman "Onze Minutes" (traduit en français. ndt) Paulo se mit à parler de sexe. Alors que j'éprouvais des difficultés à traduire des mots comme "masturbation", "orgasme", "pénis", "vagin", rougissant de temps en temps, l'auditoire s'esclaffa.
Rarement, sinon jamais, un orateur n'avait parlé si ouvertement de sexe sur cette estrade.

On lui demanda si un jour il écrirait un roman sur l'Arménie. Coelho dit qu'il ne détermine jamais à l'avance le sujet sur lequel il va écrire. Il se compara à un marin qui démarre sans avoir une destination spécifique. "Je ne sais pas si je vais écrire un roman sur l'Arménie, dit-il, mais l'Arménie a écrit un roman dans mon cœur".

Le lendemain, le quotidien Azg écrivit: "D'après les réunions de Paulo Coelho avec le public d'Erevan, il est manifeste qu'il est faux de dire que le lecteur arménien est devenu indifférent à la littérature".

Les jours suivants, Coelho déposa des couronnes au mémorial du Génocide arménien, visita le Museum du Génocide, et planta un arbre au jardin du mémorial de Dzidzernagapert. Il se rendit également à Oshagan le Jour des Saints Traducteurs, et déposa une fleur sur la tombe de Mesrob Mashdots, le créateur de l'alphabet arménien.

Il fut particulièrement impressionné par le fait que les Arméniens sanctifient leurs traducteurs, qui ont éclairé leur peuple après la découverte de leur alphabet. Il dit qu'il avait fait le tour du monde, et n'avait jamais rencontré semblable pratique. Coelho écrivit plus tard un article, publié simultanément dans tous les journaux du monde, sur sa visite en Arménie, et spécifiquement ses impressions sur le "Jour des Saints Traducteurs".

Il était impossible de faire un seul pas dans les rues d'Erevan sans être abordé par un admirateur de l'œuvre de Coelho, demandant un autographe. Il autographiait patiemment les livres pour chacun. Le profond respect et le plus grand amour dont il faisait preuve envers chacun et chaque lecteur était vraiment réconfortant.

Une fois, alors que nous visitions le "vernissage", le marché d'art en plein air d'Erevan, un peintre, dans les 70 ans, s'approcha et serra l'auteur dans ses bras, lui donnant l'un de ses tableaux en cadeau. "Dites au monde que nous aimons la vie, et que nous l'emporterons sur les difficultés économiques et politiques", dit le peintre. Ses paroles, pleines de détermination, me rappelèrent le style littéraire de Paulo: simple, mais puissant, inspiré et réconfortant.

Sans même le savoir, nous nous sommes retrouvés à l'aéroport de Zvartnots. "Partir, c'est mourir un peu" dit-on en France. "Hératsman metch el ga mi vératarts" : dans tout départ, il y aussi un retour, dit un chant arménien. Je le crois aussi.

Récemment, j'ai demandé à Paulo d'envoyer un e-mail pour souhaiter un heureux anniversaire à une amie à moi, qui est une grande admiratrice de ses œuvres.
"Un homme qui aime demande, et un homme qui respecte l'amour obéit" lui écrivit-il le lendemain. "Heureux anniversaire !". Comme toujours, Paulo a trouvé le meilleur moyen d'atteindre le cœur de son lecteur.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Coelho's article on Armenia

The other side of the Tower of Babel
By Paulo Coelho

I have spent the whole morning explaining that I’m more interested in the country’s inhabitants than in museums and churches, and that it would, therefore, be much better if we went to the market. They tell me that today is a national holiday and the market is closed.
“Where are we going then?”
“To a church.”
I knew it.
“Today we are celebrating a saint who is very special to us, and doubtless to you too. We are going to visit the tomb of this saint. But don’t ask any questions and accept that sometimes we lay on some very nice surprises for our writers.”
“How long will it take to get there?”
“Twenty minutes.”
Twenty minutes is the standard answer: I know, of course, that it will take much longer than that. However, they have, up until now, respected all my wishes, so I had better give in on this one.
On this Sunday morning, I am in Yerevan, in Armenia. I reluctantly get into the car. I can see snow-covered Mount Ararat in the distance. I look at the countryside around me. I wish I could be out there walking, rather than stuck inside this metal box. My hosts are trying to be nice to me, but I am distracted, stoically accepting this “special tourist programme.” They finally give up their attempts to make conversation, and we drive on in silence.
Fifty minutes later (I knew it!) we arrive at a small town and head for the packed church. I notice that everyone is in suit and tie; it’s obviously a very formal occasion, and I feel ridiculous in my T-shirt and jeans. I get out of the car and people from the Writers’ Union are there waiting for me. They hand me a flower, lead me through the crowd of people attending mass, and we go down some steps behind the altar. I find myself before a tomb. I realize that this is where the saint must be buried; but before I place the flower on the tomb, I want to know who exactly I am paying homage to.
“The Holy Translator,” comes the reply.
The Holy Translator! My eyes fill with tears.
Today is 9 October, 2004. The town is called Oshakan, and Armenia, as far as I know, is the only place in the world that has declared the day of the Holy Translator, St. Mesrob, a national holiday and where they celebrate it in style. As well as creating the Armenian alphabet (the language already existed, but only in spoken form). St Mesrob devoted his life to translating into his mother tongue the most important texts of the period, which were written in Greek, Persian or Cyrillic. He and his disciples devoted themselves to the enormous task of translating the Bible and the main literary classics of the time. From that moment on, the country’s culture gained its own identity, which it has maintained to this day.
The Holy Translator. I hold the flower in my hands and think of all the people I have never met, and perhaps may never have the opportunity to meet, but who, at this moment, have my books in their hands, and are doing their best t remain faithful to what I have tried to share with my readers. I think, above all, of my father-in-law, Christiano Monteiro Oiticica (profession: translator), who is today in the company of angels and of St. Mesrob, watching this scene. I remember seeing him hunched over his old typewriter, often complaining about how badly paid translation was (and, alas, still is). He would immediately go on, though, to explain that the real reason he translated was because he wanted to share a knowledge, which, but for translators, would never reach his own people.
I say a silent prayer for him, for all those who have helped me with my books, and for those who have allowed me to read books to which I would never otherwise have had access, thus helping – anonymously – to shape my life and my character. When I leave the church, I see some children writing the alphabet with sweets in the shape of letters and with flowers and more flowers.
When man grew ambitious, God destroyed the Tower of Babel, and everyone began to speak different tongues. However, in His infinite grace, he also created people to rebuild those bridges, to enable dialogue and the diffusion of human thought. This person, whose name we rarely take the trouble to notice when we open a foreign book, is the translator.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Brazilian Writer Coelho in Armenia (7 November 2004): They used to say that Armenia has changed and reading a book is not any more a favored hobby. New media and entertainment sources have occupied the minds and the hearts of the new generation.

But his proved false when, a month ago, internationally famed Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho visited Armenia. Suddenly he conquered the headline news. The Public TV, which is also viewed abroad, covered extensive parts of his trip to Armenia and the meetings he had with ordinary fans and with prominent personalities as well.

Hovhannes Yeranian of "Yerkir" daily (8th October 2004) describes the meeting in the Writers Union with warm words: "The hall of the Writers Union was packed on 6 October 2004. I can’t remember any other recent occasion when so many people came to the Writers Union … Coelho, one of the most widely-read writers in the world, was impressed by such a warm reception by the Armenian readers".

During that meeting two translations (in Western and Eastern Armenian) of Coelho's famous book "Alchemist" were presented to the public, published by Van Arian and Vahe Satian publishing companies in Lebanon.

The president of the Brazilian International Union of Journalists was also visiting Armenia together with Paulo Coelho, with the purpose of publishing series of articles on Armenia and the Armenians.

Coelho said that there is something mystical when a writer meets with his readers. He disclosed that he had planned a long time ago to visit Armenia. He noted that he considers Armenia as a "mystic" country and a place for pilgrimage, especially that it is the homeland of so many Armenians who live around the world. He expressed hope that one day Armenians will return to their homeland.

Coelho also met with President R. Kocharian and Catholicos Karekin II. He visited Tzitzernagapert (memorial of the Armenian Genocide). recommends its readers to buy a copy of the Armenian translation of Coelho's book "Alchemist" in the language of their choice (Western and Eastern languages).

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Paulo Coelho`s first book in Armenian

Paulo Coelho`s first book in Armenian

On Thursday the 28th of October, Hamazkayin`s Literary Committee is holding an event dedicated to the launching of Paulo Coelho`s first book in Armenian. The event will take place at 8;30 pm at Hamazkayin`s Levon Shant Center in Bourj Hammoud.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Famous author in Yerevan

. . . And Armenian Makes 69: Famous author in Yerevan to celebrate translation of “The Alchemist”
By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow Reporter

Internationally renowned author Paulo Coelho is in Yerevan in connection with the translation into Armenian of his best-selling novel “The Alchemist”.
The Brazilian writer’s works have been translated into 68 languages in more than 150 countries. “The Alchemist” is the first of his books to be translated into Armenian. He is in Armenia at the invitation of the Pan-Armenian Educational and Cultural Union.

Wednesday, fans and media packed the Writer’s Union hall to welcome their literary hero. The crowd spilled out of the hall, where fans were crying, begging to get inside, and even threatening police who were there to maintain order. No other writer has drawn such attention since William Saroyan came to Yerevan, 30 years ago.

“It has a mystic significance for a writer to see his work hit the mark,” Coelho said. “The reality of being in a land generally regarded a country of pilgrimage is as much mysterious. I like Yerevan and yesterday I spent 2-3 hours walking about the city and realized what warm and interesting people live here.”

On the first day of his visit Coelho visited the Genocide Memorial.

“It is a crime that the whole world should be conscious of. I understood that Armenians have a strong spirit for they never lost heart even after the Genocide,” said the writer.

Literary critics believe the secret of Coelho’s phenomenal success is in the clarity of his style and boundless optimism. But some critics also dismiss his work as pop pulp, from a writer who merely writes for mass consumption.

Coelho, 57, has found success in a style that challenges readers to dream and pursue those dreams.

“When my first book was published I feared I might be disappointed,” Coelho said. “I decided to absolutely forget about my dream if I am not successful.”

The anxiety of disappointment is far behind, his dozens of boohs have sold 51 million copies. He has been paid a pre-publication fee of $1 million for his next work, “The Fifth Mountain”.

At the beginning of the 1980s, during a trip with his wife Christine, Coelho visited Dahau, a Nazi concentration camp. The writer then started “excavating” Christianity, and went on a pilgrimage to France and Spain. After dabbling in black magic and other alternative spirituality, he returned to his Christian roots like a prodigal son.

“In my books I use fragments from the Gospel but it is not senseless, as they always lead me through my life,” says Coelho.

In the process of writing, he says, he feels like a woman impregnated by life, who has no idea what sort of child she will have. The pregnancy lasts 2 years. He never makes notes or forecasts.

“I only know that life has planted a seed in me, which will grow in due course. And when it is high time, I sit and write,” he says.

The writer doesn’t listen to claims that his writing has magical power.

“Literature can do nothing to people but inspire certain feelings in them. But this, in itself, is already enough to make changes. When you realize that you’re not alone you get additional power. I write what everybody else knows. It is not my mission to preach laws, I just remind and awaken the feelings present in a human being,” he says.

Friday, October 8, 2004

Paulo Coelho in Armenia

Paulo Coelho in Armenia
By Hovhannes Yeranian
October 8, 2004

The hall of the Writers Union was packed on October 6. I can’t remember any other recent occasion when so many people came to the Writers Union.

And this was indeed a unique and extraordinary occasion – one of the most famous writers of our times, Paulo Coelho was meeting the Armenian readers. Coelho, one of the most widely-read writers in the world, was impressed by such a warm reception by the Armenian readers.

Head of the Armenian office of Hamazgayin Educational-Cultural Union Lilit Galstian introduced Coelho and his works noting that the writer expands the spiritual limits of humanity with his works.

No other writer’s works have been translated into 60 foreign languages during his lifetime. Galstian informed the readers that Hamazgayin Union’s cooperation with Coelho will continue and all his works will be translated into Armenian.

The meeting at the Writer’s Union was devoted to the presentation of the Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian translations of Coelho’s “Alchemist” published by Van Arian and Vahe Satian publishing companies in Lebanon. Translators Artak Vardazarian and Khatchig Mouradian presented the author copies of the translated book. Actor David Hakobian read excerpts from the Eastern Armenian translation.

President of the Writers Union Levon Ananian called Coelho an artist who managed to combine reality and fantasy in an incredible flight of imagination.

A certificate of Honorable Member of the Armenian Writers Union was presented to Coelho. Levon Ananian expressed a hope that Coelho will reflect his impressions of his visit to Armenia in a book as he had done after his visit to Kazakhstan. “This is very important because his books are published and sold all over the world,” Ananian said.

The president of the Brazilian International Union of Journalists is visiting Armenia together with Paulo Coelho. The purpose of his visit is to publish a special series of articles on Armenia and the Armenians.
Coelho did not speak much during the meeting, “There is something mystical in a writer’s meeting with his readers and I am grateful that you have come here today.”

He noted that he had planned to visit Armenia a long time ago, but this was not merely a visit because Armenia is a pilgrimage country. He added that Armenia is interesting to him also because it is the homeland of the Armenians spread all over the world.
Coelho will have a press conference and a lecture at Yerevan State University. He will also meet Catolicos Garegin II and President Robert Kocharian. He will travel in Armenia, visit Tsitsernakaberd and Echmiadzin.