Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"As you sow, so shall you reap" - Paulo Coelho and his secrets

Question: What do you do after you meet your favorite writer, that is Paulo Coelho?
Answer: You read his official biography! :)

After having read "A Warrior's Life: A Biography of Paulo Coelho" I could not help but marvel at Paulo's incredible strength and character. Surely, people interested in glimpses of his life before becoming the best selling writer that he is today know about the time he spent in psychiatric hospitals, his travels around the United States and Europe with of without (a) wife, his involvement in witchcraft... BUT this biography brings along facts and details never mentioned before, mainly due to the fact that Paulo's official biographer, Fernando Morais, had access to 170 handwritten notebooks and 94 cassette recordings that the writer has kept for more than thirty five years and which he wishes to be burnt when he dies.

Thus, we are able to read extracts written decades ago about Paulo's struggle to become who he is today, his insecurities, his black magic rituals and their effect on him, and we are amazed to discover that he is an incredible person with an incredible dream who had his doubts but never gave up. Here are a few interesting facts about his life:

* the small, white ponytail some 10 cm long is a sikha, the lock of hair worn by Brahmans, orthodox Hindus and Hare Krishna monks.

* he performs a short prayer at least three times a day and also when a plane takes off/lands or a car drives off.

* his favorite cigarettes are Galaxy, a brand found in Brazil.

* after his Pilgrimage brought hundreds of pilgrims a day to Santiago de Compostela, the Galician government named one of the streets of Santiago "Rua Paulo Coelho".

* Hotel Le Bristol of Paris, where Paulo sets parts of "The Zahir" has named a drink from the book as "Le chocolat chaud de Paulo Coehlo".

*when he was young, he didn't enjoy dancing, thinking it would make him ridiculous. (from my experience, he has no problem now :))

* Paulo wrote a parody of Kipling's "If..."

"If you can ask your friends and enemies for a chance.
If you can hear a 'no' and take it as a 'maybe'.
If you can start from the bottom and yet still value the little that you have.
If you can improve yourself each moment and reach the heights without succumbing to vanity.
Then you'll be a writer."


Sunday, April 17, 2011


“Bodies”, written by Susie Orbach is one of the books that made me better understand the relation between body and mind. In a world in which the fact that you do not fit the pattern imposed by the ones around you becomes a great tragedy, psychoanalyst Susie Orbach explains why we are anxious when it comes to our bodies and why we sometimes end up hating it so much as to mutilate it, keep diets that make us risk our life, become anorexic and endlessly be preoccupied with the way we look and if we look according to the rules imposed by a society that supports shame towards our bodies through the ideal images imposed by it.

"Like many of us, the people I work with wish to and do reshape their bodies in both small and dramatic ways. They find fault with their bodies and say it makes them feel better, more in control, to improve them. Like most of us, they do not like to believe that they are being unduly influenced by outside pressures and may disdain such an idea, with its crude sense of manipulation. Whether followers of fashion or health trends or not, we take for granted that looking good for ourselves will make us feel good. And yet there is a subtle tracery of outside urgings which works on us, creating a new and often dissatisfied relationship with our bodies."

"The slim aesthetic – with pecs for men and ample breasts for women – bedevils those who don’t conform, and even those who do happen to fit can carry a sorrowful insecurity about their own bodies. A constant fretfulness and vigilance take hold for many from the moment they wake until the time they fall asleep. Their bodies are on high alert. The norm has become to worry. In another time, we would have called such anxieties an illness and, seeing how many suffer, we would have called it an epidemic. But we don’t. We have become so implicated in variants of body preoccupation ourselves, and girls and women in particular so colonized by it, that the preoccupation has become second nature – almost ‘natural’ and invisible."

The majority of the examples and cases presented in the book are shocking and they demonstrate the power of those around us to influence our psyche, whether those around us are tv commercials or our own parents.
“Bodies” has revealed how vulnerable we are to exterior stimuli and it has made me rethink the attitude I have towards my body so that this does not turn into a daily burden.
In short, we are more than our own bodies and from time to time it is of utter importance to remind ourselves of this fact.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Life in HER Books

The incomparable Jeanette Winterson is talking about the books that marked her life.

Jeanette Winterson: "My Life in Books" with Ann Robertson from pedalo on Vimeo.