Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August 1947. He attended law school there but abandoned his studies in 1970 to travel throughout South America, as well as Europe and North Africa. Two years later he returned to Brazil and began writing. Together with rock star Raul Seixas, he composed popular music lyrics that revolutionized Brazilian rock. After a brief imprisonment in 1974 for alleged subversive activities against the Brazilian government, Coelho worked for five years for the recording departments of Polygram and CBS. Between 1981 and 1986 he studied with the order of RAM, an ancient, religious Spanish society. Now a literary phenomenon, he has sold over 175 million books worldwide and has been translated into 80 languages. He has received numerous international literary awards from a variety of countries and his books have become permanent fixtures on the international bestseller lists, including The Alchemist, which has spent 360 consecutive weeks on the NYT Trade Paperback chart. He has been a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters since 2002, and in 2007 he was appointed United Nations Messenger of Peace.