Paulo Coelho on creativity, his feminist side and 'Adultery'
Author Paulo Coelho has achieved resounding success by writing novels with spiritual themes, but the cover of his latest book could easily land it on the romance fiction shelves.
In Adultery, the Brazilian-born author of the bestselling The Alchemist, a mystical novel that has won praise from the likes of talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Russian President Vladimir Putin, puts a unique perspective on an often-discussed subject.
Adultery follows a Swiss journalist who begins to question her life after she interviews an author who favours passion over happiness. She embarks on an extra-marital affair with a boyfriend from her youth, an experience that brings excitement, anger and despair, and that eventually leads to spiritual growth.
Coelho spoke with Reuters from Geneva, Switzerland, where he now lives, about passion.
Are you the writer in the story who favours passion over happiness?
Yes, absolutely. Happiness is this place that, once you arrive there, you have nothing else to do.
You get bored. Passion is this up and down; it’s like a roller coaster, you know, and much more interesting to me.
You have written from the viewpoint of women before. Is it more difficult for you than from the male perspective?
Creativity is basically a feminine process. I’m convinced that we have in our soul, everybody, this masculine side and this feminine side. So at the end of the day, you always use this feminine creative energy to write or to do any type of art or creativity. So if I see that my protagonist is feminine, it’s not more difficult, no. And even when my protagonist is masculine, I’m writing from using this feminine energy.
Your protagonist in Adultery has a life almost anyone would envy, but it is not enough. Do you think that human beings are just incapable of handling peace and prosperity for the long term?
It depends how deep you dig into your soul. They can handle peace and prosperity. The problem is that they are always insecure, if they can keep this forever. So the question is not that they cannot handle it, it is how to keep this forever? And, as you know, it is impossible, so people start to destroy the excitement of the present moment due to the fact that they are trying to live behind walls to protect their prosperity and happiness.
The affair seemed to trigger something in the protagonist that causes her to change.
Only three things can change people. It is love, it is suffering, and it is joy.
What are your own views of adultery?
What I see is that there are many people who destroy their marriages because of one-night stands with someone else. And as the French say, “C’est ne pas grave”. It’s not something easy to swallow, but at the same time, it does not justify you to end a long-lasting relationship because something happened.
But in any case, when I wrote the book, my intention was not to judge adultery. It was mostly to describe adultery as people see it. And to touch on some issues that are very important ... The book is much more about how we deal today with our challenges, our personal challenges.
Do you feel under any pressure to please the public, or are you simply writing what you want to say?
If I felt any pressure to please the public, I’d never write a book called Adultery. There are many readers who were shocked because they’re used to a different type of book ... So the answer is no, not at all. Otherwise, I would write about things that they are familiar with. And this would be the end of my career because I would stop having pleasure in doing what I do.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
No. I only can write a book every two years, you know. And I write very fast, but I’m not always writing every day. As I’m talking to you, I’m returning from a power walk in the middle of nowhere. I needed this contact with different things, like nature, for example. I cannot be in front of a computer trying to tell a story. Otherwise living becomes secondary, and for me, living is my primary reason to be here. – Reuters