Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a perfect example of the saying ‘good things come in small packages’. The simple little tale conveys a very powerful and inspirational message. First published in Portuguese in 1988, it is considered a modern classic.
Alchemy, derived from the Arabic word al-kimia, is both a philosophy and an ancient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold, investigating the preparation of the “elixir of longevity”, and achieving ultimate wisdom, involving the improvement of the alchemist as well as the making of several substances described as possessing unusual properties. (Wikipedia)
The protagonist in this magical fable is a young shepherd of simple means named Santiago. He crosses paths with a King who teaches the young boy the value of reading the signs the world presents us, even in our dreams. The boy’s subsequent search for hidden treasure takes him across country borders and brings him into contact with both the deceitful and most noble of humanity. He learns the value of persistence and hard work, the value of humility and the value of honour and bravery. Particularly touching is Santiago’s interaction with a crystal merchant who was hesitant to follow his dreams for fear of succeeding. The young boy’s courage in seizing opportunities and overcoming adversity inspired all those he came into contact with.
Santiago’s search for hidden treasure is a metaphor for life.
Coelho introduces the concept of one’s Personal Legend, or destiny. Appealingly though, this destiny is not presented as something that will simply fall into one’s lap, but something one needs to strive for. Too often in this inspirational genre readers are given the impression that if we simply wish for something long enough with the purest of intentions, then that wish will come into being. This simple tale reminds us that anything worth having must be worked for and that one does not gain in life without first risking loss. We are also reminded that treasures can come in the form of both material objects and experiences.
Coelho, through this allegorical fable, asserts that life is a journey with an infinite series of decision points, and that the world, if one observes it carefully enough, provides all the information needed to choose the right paths in order to fulfil our dreams.
Although a simple and almost childlike story on one level, The Alchemist has a disarming and beguiling depth to it that will entrance readers of all ages. Its themes are universal and can and should be embraced by people of all races, creeds and religions. At its core, it is a story about doing what is right and noble, and being rewarded for it. The Alchemist is a must read.
More than 30 million copies of The Alchemist have been sold and it has been translated into more than 67 languages.
BOOK RATING: The Story 5 /5 ; The Writing 5 / 5
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Genre: Literature, Classic, Mystery, Fantasy
Other titles by this prolific author Paulo Coelho include ‘Adultery‘, ‘The Valkyries’, ‘By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept’, ‘Veronika Decides to Die’, ‘The Devil and Miss Prym’, ‘Eleven Minutes’, ‘Like the Flowing River’, ‘The Witch of Portobello’and ‘The Fifth Mountain’.