9 December 2011

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


I first read this book by Paulo Coelho in English in 2004 at the recommendation of a good friend.  It is an easy and thought provoking read with what appears to be a narrative almost bordering on a fable.  Do not let this style of writing put you off.  It is an excellent book and the themes discussed in it are profound indeed.  I re-read it in 2008 this time in French and I am about to re-read it again in French.  It is the sort of book which lends itself well to several readings.  The themes discussed within its pages are both esoteric, in the sense that they deal with the inner consciousness and encourage the reader to ponder upon the words on the page from a meditative, reflective and mystical perspective but they are also exoteric, in the sense that the book appeals to our everyday consciousness and how we view and thus make sense of the world.  

On the surface of it, the story within appears to be simple and obvious and yet once one is engrossed in the book, it becomes apparent that there is more to this book than meets the eye as the reader discovers the elaborate plot and the complexity within the story line.  A thoroughly good read.

"The Alchemist is an allegorical novel by Paulo Coelho first published in 1988. The Alchemist was originally written in Portugese.  It has sold more than 65 million copies in more than 150 countries, becoming one of the best-selling books in history. 

The Alchemist details the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Santiago, believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, decides to travel to the pyramids of Egypt to find treasure.  He then tells a lone gypsy about this treasure.  As he leaves, the gypsy mentions one thing: If he does find the treasure, she wants 10 percent of it. On the way, he encounters love, danger, opportunity, disaster and learns a lot about himself and the ways of the world.  One of the significant characters that he meets is an old king named Melchizedek who tells him about discovering his personal legend: what he always wanted to accomplish in his life. And that "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."  This is the core philosophy and motto of the book. During his travels, he meets a beautiful Arabian woman named Fatima who explains to him that if he follows his heart, he shall find what it is he seeks. Santiago then encounters a lone alchemist who tells about personal legends.  He says that people only want to find the treasure of their personal legends but not the personal legend itself.  He feels unsure about himself as he listens to the alchemist's teachings.  The alchemist states "Those who don't understand their personal legends will fail to comprehend its teachings."  It also states that treasure is more precious than gold."

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