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.


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