CULTURE

The importance of the journey

A number of thoughts cross one’s mind before meeting Paulo Coelho: Will his personality match his seductive writing? Will he exude the same magic as his books? Does he have the aura of a contemporary guru? These are not easy questions to answer. Journalists who spoke to him a few hours before his lecture at the Athens Concert Hall on Wednesday surely did not come into contact with a charismatic orator. Yet his words were gentle and modest, his glance serene and self-assured and his pattern of thought followed clear logic. For a man whose books have sold more than 70 million copies around the world, he seemed humane, amiable and genuinely humble. Right from the start, the author explained that writing is a solitary occupation. At the same time, however, he considers it a blessing to be able to converse with his readers and exchange ideas – just as he planned to do in a Q&A session following the lecture. Asked about religion and the kind of spirituality that transcends almost all of his writings, the author noted that not all of his books deal with metaphysical issues. In general, however, he believes that more and more people are looking for answers, something that could prove to be dangerous. «Today religion is led by politicians,» said Coelho. «Not just in terms of Islam, but in terms of Christian fundamentalism too. He who fights for God is ready to die for that cause. He does not sit down at the negotiating table.» Instead of looking at things through a strictly religious prism, said the author, people should accept their own, individual piece of responsibility in the world and remain open toward life, which remains a mystery to us all. Coelho also spoke about a lesser-known side of his activities, his charity work. In Brazil, the author has established an association which takes care of 340 children and elders in need. «What is important, above all, is not to realize our dreams straight away, but to experience the journey, all the way until we fulfill our desires,» said Coelho. «When it comes to authors, the journey is endless, because each book gives way to the next.»