I get about two hundred emails a day and about half are spam. Most spam is pretty obvious, but just now one came in that seemed more sophisticated than usual. It said it was from “Paulo Coelho.” Sure, the world-famous bestselling author of The Alchemist, a short and timeless inspirational novel, which I read earlier this year. These spammers are getting pretty sophisticated. The email said:
“My wish is for you and your loved ones to have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. As a way to thank you for your continued support throughout 2008, I have enclosed a copy of the Christmas Story that appeared in worldwide journals and columns that I have written.
Best wishes to you and your family.
It had an attachment titled “Conto de Nato 2008 – ingles.doc”. Surely a virus! Spammers are now targeting readers of literary fiction containing timeless parables. Very clever.
But…what if it was legitimate? Coming from Coelho, what kind of virus could it possibly have? Magic pixie dust that streams out of my computer accompanied by some mystical Middle Eastern music?
I clicked on the attachment. It was a short, beautiful holiday story written by Coelho, magically translated into English from the original from Portuguese (how did he know I don’t speak Portuguese?!) about a kind king who disguises himself as a mysterious stranger and grants a poor family a boon on Christmas Eve.
I realized that Paulo Coelho, the alchemist himself, is exactly the kind of person who would send a mysterious email to a list of people who can’t figure out how they wound up on the list and are forced to stop and contemplate whether magic was involved. I’ll bet he sat there in the highest turret of a twelfth-century castle, in a sandstorm that whistles like a harpsichord, and like Carnac the Magnificent, dictated made-up email addresses for his assistant to send the story to, and every single one turned out to be real, and magically, someone who was inspired by his books.
That’s probably what happened.