The Alchemist

‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho is a book that teaches us the wisdom to lead life and the courage to follow our dreams. The book involves a lot of symbolism and adventure. It teaches us that it’s not the final destination that counts but the hardships that we face in the process which make us internally strong. The people that we meet in life and the lessons we learn are all that matters.

Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilin 1947. His father, Pedro Queima de Coelho de Souza , was an engineer and his mother Lydia was a home- maker. Paulo always wanted to be a writer. His literary ambitions were not approved by his middle class parents and his father admitted him to a mental institution when he was 17. He had faced a lot of troubles in his life. But finally he managed to fulfill his dream. Before becoming a full time writer he also worked as a theatre director, actor, lyricist and journalist. His books generally have a spiritual context because of the fact that he traveled learning about secret societies, oriental religions etc. In 1982, he published his first book Hell Archives but it didn’t work well. In 1986 then he wrote The Pilgrimage and in 1988 he wrote The Alchemist. In an interview, Coelho stated “The Alchemist is a metaphor of my own life. It was written in ’88, and in that moment I was also very happy in the things I was doing. I was doing something that gave me food and water — to use the metaphor in the book, I was working, I had a person who I loved, I had money, but I was not fulfilling my dream. My dream was, and still is, to be a writer.” The book made the record for bestselling book and the author sold about 35 million copies. The book was originally written in Portuguese but has been translated into 67 languages creating a world record. Other popular books of the author are Brida, The Valkyries, The Fifth Mountain, and Eleven Minutes etc.

The Alchemist has been written in an optimistic tone. It suggests that everything is achievable in this universe provided we have the will and determination to do it. The writing style used in the book is narrative and the book includes a lot of metaphors. The novel is basically a work of fiction but the central theme of two dreamers looking for a treasure is inspired from Jorge Luis Borges’ short story: Tale of two dreamers, from the 1935 collection A Universal History of Infamy. However the concept of dreamers looking for a treasure abroad and find it at their home has been quiet common in lot of other folk tales and literature. The novel revolves around a boy called Santiago who does what his heart says. He went on to become a shepherd going against his father’s will. The book involves a lot of imagery too. Sheep is used to represent people who have not taken the risk to fulfill their dreams. On his way he entertained himself with the thoughts of marrying merchant’s daughter. Once he dreams of finding a treasure in the Egyptian Pyramids and so starts working towards it. In the process, he meets a king who tells him some precious words of wisdom. One of the things he said was, “when you want something, all the world conspires in helping you to achieve it.” This is the novel’s main philosophy. Santiago keeps following omens that lead him to his dream. During his travels he learns lessons from the messengers. It is also symbolic that he finds his soul mate and secrets of wisdom in the wilderness of the desert. As Coelho explains, when we love we try to improve ourselves and that is when everything is possible. In the course of his journey he meets the alchemist. This encounter with the alchemist brings to him self understanding and spiritual enlightenment. Finally Santiago achieves what he desires. The author suggests that those who do not have courage to follow their “Personal Myth” are doomed to a life of emptiness, misery and unfulfillment.

In my opinion, “the Alchemist” is a novel that may appeal to anybody because we all can relate to Santiago. All of us have dreams which we are dying to fulfill. What I like about the book is that it teaches you to life to the fullest. The words of wisdom contained in the book are seriously thought provoking. But somewhere down the line, I believe that at times the circumstances compel us to move away from our goals and we can no longer follow our dreams. I love the book because it inspires us to listen to our heart. The book truly has a motivating impact on the readers. I would suggest everyone to read the book.

Sakshi Dhingra

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