My Review of Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’

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Is it a tale of adventure? Or should we just call it an original story of passion and goal pursuit? The Alchemist  by Paulo Coelho is, in my opinion a gripping blend of the two. Written in 1988, it is a story of an Andalusian boy who dared to follow his heart when everybody in his society would rather play safe and be like everyone else.

…he had attended a seminary until he was sixteen. His parents had wanted him to become a priest, and thereby a source of pride for a simple farm family… But ever since he had been a child, he had wanted to know the world, and this was much more important to him than knowing God and learning about man’s sins. One afternoon, on a visit to his family,  he had summoned up the courage to tell his father that he didn’t want to become a priest. That he wanted to travel.

It is a thought-provoking story of Santiago’s physical journey from Spain to Africa, as well as his spiritual journey where he discovers the universal language.
The author introduces the concept destiny pursuit and completion of a Personal Legend as the golden thread woven into the engaging storyline. We discover within the story that achieving ones goals is the key to living a successful and satisfying life as perfection comes from finding your treasure (destiny). Santiago eventually realizes this truth after first avoiding the distraction of personal wealth gained through working with a crystal merchant, and the distraction of love found in the unexpected encounter with the beautiful Fatima. While on this journey, he receives assistance from an Alchemist. While traveling across the Sahara, the Alchemist helps Santiago better understand his quest for completing his Personal Legend. In the concluding section of the book, it is revealed to the reader that the life lessons Santiago learned while on his quest to complete his Personal Legend were just as important as the actual treasure he finds upon returning to his Spanish town. During his journey to find the treasure, Santiago is also educated regarding the oneness of nature.

Constantly in the story we are reminded of concepts such as ‘omens’, ‘beginner’s luck’, and maktub. Santiago learns from the wiseman (Melchizedek) that universe helps guides one towards achieving their dreams:

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

This is realized through reading the omens, but again we’re reminded to rely on our intuitions to guide us as Santiago hardly only uses the stones Urim and Thummin to help him read the omens. Intuition here is referred to as the Universal Language. The Universal Language is an individual’s ability to interact with nature as a whole, and also one’s self. It is the medium of communication that connects man to ‘infinite intelligence’.

The ‘Beginner’s luck’ is the idea that at first everything goes in ones favour, a sign that the universe is conspiring with you to help you achieve your goals:

“That’s the way it always is,” said the old man. “It’s called the principle of favourability. When you play cards the first time, you are almost sure to win. Beginner’s luck.”

‘Maktub’ an Arabic word that means ‘it is written’.

“It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your destiny. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.”

A reminder to anyone in pursuit of success that everything happens for a reason and every occurrence has a significance and it is certainly part of the journey to destiny.

The central message in ‘The Alchemist’ is that everything; our hopes, dreams, aspirations, events and occurrences in favour or against us might mean that the universe is out there tickling our minds, if only we would listen. It also might mean that the universe has these ideas etched into the unified field, and if we tickle the universe we might be able to scratch off some life-changing thoughts and ideas. People who have discovered their life purpose and mission seem to be able to access ideas from a unified field of sorts. Some people “listen” to these ideas and they change the quality of life on our planet.

Santiago finds his treasure back home in Andalusia but would not have discovered where it lies, if he had not travelled. The journey is always as important as the destination.

The book was translated from Portuguese to English, I know that translation affects the quality of writing, but I could not get into his writing style. At all. I felt like it was totally affected and contrived. He was going for this “fable/parable” style, but it seemed to fail miserably. The parable-like quality was totally contrived, but, it is, after all, a good book.

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