In Box

Epiphanies: Paulo Coelho

One of the world's most popular novelists, Coelho has sold more than 100 million books in 150-plus countries. He spoke with FP about growing up in Brazil, the importance of artists today, and how to sell novels in Africa.

Since I was a young teenager, my dream was to be a writer. But of course, first your parents tell you it is impossible, then they say you are never going to make a living out of it. And in my case, they went even further: They put me in a mental institution when I was just 18 or 19, I don't remember. Three times.

Everybody is a political writer, even if he writes about plants. You cannot avoid being political. The fact that you speak out or that you are silent is a political act -- silence is also political.

What gives us a lot of hope is that, in a moment when all bridges are collapsing -- economic bridges, political bridges -- when it seems that people don't understand each other, at least they understand the story. At least they understand the music. At least they understand the ballet. So art, somehow, is one of the few bridges left intact in a moment that we still need communication between different cultures.

Every writer wants to be read. But there are limitations due to price and to distribution. You cannot be all over Africa because there are some places they don't even have bookstores. But, funny enough, they have the Internet! It is unbelievable. So I post all my books for free on the Internet, and people can download them. If they like it, they are going to pay. You have to trust people.


In Box

The FP Quiz

Are you a globalization junkie? Then test your knowledge of global trends, economics, and politics with 8 questions about how the world works.

1. What percentage of world trade is carried on ships?

a) 40 percent    b) 60 percent    c) 80 percent

2. In the World Trade Organization’s 15 years of operation, which country has made the most trade complaints?

a) India        b) Japan          c) United States

3. How many ambassadors to the United States are women?

a) 3    b) 15    c) 25

4. By how much has the worldwide number of Wi-Fi hot spots risen over the last five years?

a) 5 times           b) 10 times           c) 20 times

5. Which country has the highest percentage of its population in a DNA database?

a) Britain       b) United States    c) United Arab Emirates

6. After the United States and Britain, which country buys the most fine art?

a) France      b) China       c) Belgium

7. Which of these countries has the highest annual death rate?

a) Germany    b) Iraq    c) Kenya

8. What percentage of Americans are self-described isolationists?

a) 18 percent    b) 30 percent    c) 49 percent

Answers on the next page.


1) C, 80 percent, by volume. Ships may move slowly, but they can carry far more cargo than more recently invented modes of transportation such as planes, trains, and trucks, according to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.

2) C, United States. The biggest complainer at the World Trade Organization (WTO), with 94 trade complaints as of Jan. 28, is the United States. But with 108 complaints against it, it’s also the top recipient. As the WTO turns 15 this year, its most litigious members have been the United States and the European Union, accounting for 175 of 403 disputes, though in recent years, large emerging economies such as Brazil, Mexico, and India have filed an increasing share of complaints.

3) C, 25. The number of female ambassadors posted in Washington is at an all-time high, the Washington Post recently reported. Some have called it the "Hillary effect," with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bringing more women into the diplomatic corps. With three of the past four U.S. secretaries of state being women, some female ambassadors have said it makes it easier for heads of state to choose a woman for ambassadorship to the United States.

4) A, 5 times. As of Jan. 25, there were 289,834 free Wi-Fi locations in 139 countries, up from 53,700 just five years ago, according to the hot-spot registry maintained by media company JiWire. The United States leads the world with 69,757 hot spots, but other countries have far more per person. Sweden leads the way with 786 hot spots per million people, compared with 227 per million in the United States.

5) A, Britain. The country where CCTV monitoring is ubiquitous implemented the world’s first police-maintained DNA database in 1995. According to data gathered by the Economist, in England and Wales, 8.7 percent of the population -- one of every 12 people -- have had their DNA profile stored in a police database, where samples are kept for six years. (Three-fourths of young British black men are estimated to be in the country’s databases.) No other country comes close -- second-place Estonia’s rate is just 2 percent.

6) B, China. In 2008, China overtook France to become the world’s third-largest art market, as measured by sales of fine art at auction, according to a report in the Economist. China accounted for 7.7 percent of sales, surpassing France’s 6 percent. The United States and Britain were by far the leaders at 35.7 percent and 34.5 percent, respectively.

7) A, Germany. People often associate high death rates with war or poverty, but a country’s annual death rate -- the number who die per 1,000 people -- relates significantly to its population’s age structure. As countries become wealthier, birthrates fall, resulting in a higher proportion of elderly people and thus a higher death rate. In Germany, 20 percent of people are at least 65, and the death rate is 10.9 per 1,000. In contrast, only 3 percent of Iraqis are 65 and older, and the death rate is 5.03 per 1,000, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.

8) C, 49 percent. Isolationist sentiment in the United States has skyrocketed to the highest level in decades, according to an analysis of survey data by the Pew Research Center. In November, 49 percent of survey respondents agreed the United States should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." That’s up from 42 percent in 2005, 30 percent in December 2002, and a mere 18 percent in 1964 (the earliest year with data available).