Brazil | ‘Invisible chain of solidarity’ (w/ podcast)

A screenshot from the HP presentation “Paulo Coelho—Alchemist of Words” that concerns the writer’s dislike for religious schooling and his early interest in poetry. Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, under the protecting gaze of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) on Corcovado. (© 2007 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P.)

Football-generated passions, says Coelho, will propel Brazil toward 2014

Paris | Within 24 hours of writing about Brazil’s successful presentation to host the 2014 World Cup and the role of writer Paulo Coelho in the bid effort (see Nov 2), we received a message from one of Coelho’s assistants, taking note of our comments.

The rapid response demonstrated Coelho’s consciousness of his global audience—he once signed 53 translations of The Alchemist in one sitting, a world record—but also that he may be the most plugged-in writer in world history. The computer provides his “window to the world,” he says in an HP promotion.

How did the Brazilian publishing sensation who lives only part of the year in his native land, who avoids Brazilian settings within his work, who does not play football or dance the samba, as he admits, come to speak before the lords of world football in Zurich on Oct 30 to advocate for the country’s first chance to host the tournament in 64 years? All it took was a request, before the initial presentation in late July, from Confederação Brasileira de Futebol president Ricardo Teixeira—a nod to the potential influence of the Coelho “brand.”

Coelho did not concern himself with the political aspects of the task or that he might compromise his creative freedom, but sees his support as helping to lift Brazil through the passionate medium of sport. (Brazil was the only nation to bid on the tournament in FIFA’s since-abdicated plan to rotate the Cup among continental confederations.) Coelho backs the view that, within sport, especially football, violent human instincts can be channeled to healthier ends.

“Sport in my vision is the most important thing in the world, more than politics, more than anything else, because it deals with your passions, with your emotions, without this aggression we see when we are dealing with something else,” Coelho says in the Nov 8 podcast. Coelho’s own sport is archery, which he employs as a meditative aid.

Such is the passion generated by football, Coelho says, that he quickly discarded the topic as a possible theme in his own writing. Santiago, the Andalusian shepherd in Coelho’s foundational tale of risk and self-realization, The Alchemist (originally O Alquimista, published by Editora Rocco, 1988), early in his life-altering quest meets the soothsaying figure who will propel Santiago toward his Personal Legend.

YouTube video

Coelho assistant Paula Braconnot created a video diary of the Oct 29–30 bid presentation in Zurich. At one moment, Coelho asks a Brazilian bid official if he should pitch his three-minute speech in the conditional mood: “We are all asking to host the Cup.” The official replies, “No, we already have it!”

“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish,” says the man, identified as the figure named in Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek, king of Salem (Jerusalem). “Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.” Coelho’s regard for the realm of meanings that futebol conveys in Brazilian life convinced him that Santiago’s journey would not conclude with him lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in the Maracanã. But given his interest in the game, Coelho said it was natural that he would one day ask himself:

Page 1 of 2 | Next page