The 25th anniversary edition cover of The Alchemist. Originally written in Portuguese, it has now been translated into more than 80 languages.

PAULO: So I started knocking on doors. And Oprah, believe me when I tell you that the first door I knocked on—it was a very important publishing house in Brazil—a man opened and I said, "I have a book. It's not the manuscript of a genius, but I trust that it is going to sell." And the guy said, "Okay, I'm going to publish it." Three years later, when the book had sold half a million copies in Brazil, I asked him why he'd republished a book that had already flopped once. And he said, "I don't know."

OPRAH: That sounds unbelievable. Like fate.

PAULO: Absolutely. Which I believe in—destiny.

OPRAH: You know, the scholar Joseph Campbell writes about the hero's journey: The adventurer leaves home, overcomes obstacles, achieves great things, then returns home to share his newfound wisdom. And that's Santiago's tale, too.

PAULO: Yeah.

OPRAH: Why do you think human beings respond so deeply to the hero's journey?

PAULO: Because everybody wants to undertake it. However, people don't.

OPRAH: Because they're afraid.

PAULO: They are.

OPRAH: In the beginning of the book, when Santiago's father is trying to convince him not to go, the boy can sense that his father wishes he had gone. You write, "He gave the boy his blessing. The boy could see in his father's gaze a desire to be able, himself, to travel the world —a desire that was still alive, despite his father's having had to bury it, over dozens of years, under the burden of struggling for water to drink, food to eat..." Most people get hung up on the burden and lose the dream.

PAULO: But there is always an inner child who says, "Hey, do you remember that dream?"

OPRAH: And real courage is being able to step out and live that dream. That's really the only courage you ever need.

PAULO: Yes. I have many fears, Oprah, but I'm still trying to honor my dream, which was to be a writer. When you write books, you meet challenges. I saw so many writers paralyzed by failure, but also by success. They wrote one successful book, and then they stopped writing. I continue to write because I'm enthusiastic about my work.

OPRAH: You just published your 31st book, Adultery.

PAULO: You know, I don't even count!

OPRAH: So you never had that fear that you wouldn't be able to repeat the phenomenon of The Alchemist?

PAULO: No, no. The Alchemist only happens once in a lifetime. I've had books that didn't sell. But I continue to write.

OPRAH: So is your dream—your dream to be a writer—is that the same thing as what you refer to in The Alchemist as a Personal Legend?

PAULO: A Personal Legend is the reason you are here. It's as simple as that. You can fill your hours and days with things that are meaningless. But you know you have a reason to be here. It is the only thing that gives you enthusiasm.

OPRAH: I call it your personal calling.

PAULO: Yes. And you know that when you lack enthusiasm, you are betraying your Personal Legend.

OPRAH: And you believe we all have one.


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