Book Excerpt: 'Maktub', A Journey Of Introspection, Self-Reflection, And Inner Transformation

Continuing to explore questions of faith and spirituality in his works, Paulo Coelho’s latest book, Maktub, is a companion to The Alchemist, and is an inward journey into the self.

Maktub by Paulo Coelho Photo: HarperCollins

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Paulo Coelho is the author of 30 international bestsellers, including The Alchemist, The Pilgrimage, Veronika Decides to Die, Aleph, Eleven Minutes, The Fifth Mountain, The Valkyries, and Manual of the Warrior of Light, among others. He is well-known for the use of symbolism in describing the often spiritually motivated journeys his characters undertake. He dropped out of law school in 1970 and travelled extensively South America, Mexico, Europe, and North Africa. After returning home, he began to write pop and rock music lyrics with popular Brazilian singer songwriter Raul Seixas. He continues to explore questions of faith and spirituality in his fiction and non-fiction. 

Coelho’s latest book Maktub (translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa; HarperCollins, 2024) is a companion to The Alchemist. Compiled from Coelho’s column of the same name, Maktub aims to take readers on a journey of introspection, self-reflection, and inner transformation.  

Excerpts from Maktub:   

The master says: 

Close your eyes. No, you don’t even need to close your 

eyes. Simply imagine this scene: a flock of birds in full flight. 

Right, tell me how many birds you can see. Five? Eleven? 


Whatever your answer—and 

it’s hard for anyone to give 

a precise number—one 

thing is clear from this small experiment. 

You were perfectly capable of imagining a flock of birds, 

but the number of birds was not in your control. And yet the 

scene was so clear and defined and exact. The answer to the 

question lies elsewhere. 

Who decided how many birds would appear in that scene? 

The master says: 

Observe how certain words were constructed to reveal 

their true meaning. 

Take the word “preoccupation” and divide it in two: “pre” 

and “occupation.” It means occupying your mind or worrying 

about something before it actually happens. 

Who, in the entire Universe, can possibly worry about 

something that hasn’t even happened? 

Discard all such preoccupations. Remain focused on your 

destiny and on your path. Learn everything you need to know 

in order to wield the sword of light that has been given to you. 

Observe the fighting techniques of friends, masters, and 


Train hard, but do not make that worst of all mistakes: 

believing that you know what your adversary’s next move is 

going to be. 


A science fiction story describes a society in which almost 

everyone is born ready to perform some task, be it as a technician, 

an engineer, or a mechanic. A few are born with no 

special skill, and they are sent to an insane asylum, since the 

insane are incapable of contributing to society. 

One of the inmates rebels. The asylum has a library, and he 

tries to learn everything he can about science and art. 

When he thinks he has learned enough, he decides to escape 

but is captured and taken to a research facility outside 

the city. 

“Welcome,” says one of the people working there. “It is 

precisely those who are obliged to find their own path whom 

we admire most. From now on, you can do whatever you want 

to do because it is thanks to people like you that the world can 


The master says: 

Write. Whether it’s a letter or a diary or a few jottings as 

you talk on the phone, just write. 

Writing brings us closer to God and to our fellow humans. 

If you want to have a better understanding of your role in 

the world, write. Try to put your whole soul into writing, even 

if no one else will ever read it or, worse, even if someone does 

end up reading something you didn’t want them to read. The 

mere fact of writing helps us to organize our thoughts and to 

see the world around us more clearly. A piece of paper and 

a pen can perform miracles—assuage 

sorrows, make dreams 

reality, take away and restore lost hopes. 

The word is power.