A reader of my books met me at an afternoon book-signing in Bilbao, in the Basque Country.
You always speak of symbols,” she tells me, I want to show you a symbol that you have never seen.”
The next day she picks me up at my hotel.
“I don’t know how this started,” she says, “but legend has it that an old Jewish alchemist claimed that these trees could sing. The mayor of the town said that if he could not prove what he claimed, he would be killed. Ever since then, every year a tree sings in Soria, symbolically saving those who feel that everything is possible.”
We reach Soria and go to a square. Little by little, people begin to gather and all of a sudden a complete band with all their instruments climbs the gigantic bi-centenarian elm tree in the middle of the square. Each musician occupies a branch.
Under the command of an invisible wand, a tree sings in Soria.
Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author who has sold more than 100 million books, which include 14 short story collections and the novel “The Alchemist.” He has been a fan of the Internet since the early 1990s. He spends at least three hours a day online, writing e-mails back and forth with his readers and posting photos on Flickr, MySpace and a blog.
Coelho’s online activities also include promoting pirated copies of his own books. Since 2005 he’s been directing his readers to an online site where they can download his books, in languages from German to Japanese, for free. “I always thought that when, at the beginning of your career, you strive to be read, you can’t change your mind later and become greedy about it.”