Book review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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Destiny has always been a symbol carved upon each one of us and the need to feel fulfillment by the time we near our graves is always a struggle. With our current society and the daily pressure we meet of making ends meet, the urge to give up everything to chase our dreams is almost never an option.

the alchemist

This is the case so beautifully depicted in Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’; which tells the story of an Andalusian shepherd named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. This enchanting novel tells us of Santiago’s journey who has a dream and the courage to follow it. After listening to ‘the signs’, the boy ventures in his personal journey of exploration and self-discovery, symbolically searching for his hidden treasure. As he decides to go, his father’s only advice is ‘travel the world until you see that our castle is the greatest and our women the most beautiful’.

In his journey, Santiago sees the greatness of the world and along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way.

He encounters several challenges, and after a series of events meets the Alchemist who offers to cross the desert to help him find his treasure. Along the way, the Alchemist offers Santiago wisdom from the years of life that he has seen and through all that he has learnt:

“My heart is a traitor,” the boy said to the alchemist, when they had paused to rest the horses. “It doesn’t want me to go on.”

“That makes sense,” the alchemist answered. “Naturally it’s afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you’ve won.”

“Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?”

“Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you’re thinking about life and about the world.”

“You mean I should listen, even if it’s treasonous?”

“Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because you’ll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them.”

I would have at first assumed that such kind of wisdom is only given by biographies and inspirational stories but I was proven wrong and the one of the reasons why I loved reading this book is the simplicity in Paulo’s language. He always knows how to take everyday situations and impart endless rivers of wisdom into it. In this story, we follow this shepherd boy in sort of a pilgrimage from stage one through the final achievement of his personal legend. A simple shepherd boy who goes through many adventures, failures, successes and changing notions of what his own personal legend is after all.

‘The Alchemist’ is the kind of novel that tells you that everything is possible as long as you really want it to happen and Coelho seems to have succeeded in jotting down so much wisdom into such a simple language but as he states, ‘simple things are the most valuable and only wise people appreciate them.’

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