Paulo Coelho is one of today's most widely read authors. His works have been translated into 56 languages and have sold 51 million copies in 150 countries. He is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and has written columns for several international publications, including Italy's Corriere della Sera and Germany's Welt am Sonntag. Coelho is the author of The Alchemist (1988) and The Pilgrimage (1987), which both featured on the top of bestseller lists around the world. He has been awarded several prestigious international prizes, including the BAMBI, Germany's most popular media award. Paulo Coelho is the founder of the Paulo Coelho Institute, which provides support and opportunities for underprivileged Brazilians. He was also appointed special advisor to the UNESCO programme 'Spiritual Convergence and Intercultural Dialogues'. Paulo Coelho started studying engineering at university but soon dropped out to pursue his passion for writing. He joined a theatre group and worked as a journalist, finding inspiration for his work in travelling and encountering different people. Coelho's sister has admitted that she once won an essay prize at school by entering something that she had found in Paulo's rubbish bin.