The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is one of my all time favorite books. Whenever I feel a dearth of inspiration, I immediately head to my book shelf and grab a copy of this brilliant book.  It instantly wakes up the dreamer in me and rekindles the spark of inspiration which we often tend to lose while going through our lives. Having sold over 35 million copies worldwide and been translated into 67 languages this book still continues to have life-transforming impact on its readers. The book even won the Guinness world record for being the most translated book in the world.  Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author who worked as a journalist, theatre director, actor and songwriter before pursuing a full-time writing career. In the year 1986 Coelho wrote his first book The Pilgrimage based on his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The following year he published The Alchemist. What inspired him to write this book? “The Alchemist is the metaphor of my own life. I always had this dream of becoming a writer. But started writing only at the age of 40. I came up with The Alchemist while I was trying to understand what took me so long to pursue my dreams” said Coelho when asked about his source of inspiration during an interview with CNN. In total the author has published around 26 books.

The story unfolds the life of a shepherd boy named Santiago who is residing in Spain. Santiago lives a carefree life wandering around the countryside of Andalusia accompanied by his friends, the herd of sheep he owns. Though he is happy with his life, he yearns to pursue his recurring dream of finding hidden treasure in the pyramids of Egypt. He tries to ignore his dream like most of the people in his world until one day he meets the king of Salem. The king tells him that he should believe in his dreams and that it’s his purpose in life. Encouraged by the king, Santiago decides to follow his heart and sets out on the journey in search of the treasure. He travels from Spain to Africa finally reaching his destination, the pyramids of Egypt. The journey is not an easy one. He is constantly subjected to tests of courage and patience. But he also learns and discovers a lot about himself and the world around him during this journey. He meets different kinds of people – an Arab merchant, the Englishman and the desert girl named Fatima whom he falls in love with. Each person knowingly or unknowingly leading him closer to his dreams. The author says “When you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true”. What makes it an amazing novel is that we can all easily relate to the life of Santiago. Haven’t we all experienced this strange phenomenon at some point of our lives? When we pursued something we really wanted with faith and persistence. We noticed everything falling in place, people sometimes even strangers appeared out of the blue offering us help to obtain the thing we desired.

The language is beautifully poetic yet simple to read. The book contains nuggets of wisdom in the form of profound and easy to relate passages that coerce you to contemplate over your life. For example in the instance where the crystal-seller tells Santiago: “I am afraid that great disappointment awaits me, and so I prefer to dream” We can easily relate to this man who has sacrificed his happiness for the fear of failure thereby leading an empty life full of regrets. It just makes you think – “Haven’t I met someone like the crystal- seller in my life too? Am I also living my life like him?”

The message the author has conveyed is that everyone deserves an extraordinary life. And the only way we can have a fulfilling and joyous life is by pursuing our dreams. Most of us, out of conformity and fear of failure settle for a mediocre life following the herd instead of following our heart. But by doing that we are just existing and not truly living. We should have courage to take the risks involved and persist through the obstacles we meet on the path leading to our dreams. If we do that, nothing can stop us from realizing our dreams. And while going a tough phase one must remember that there is a higher power always guiding and supporting us in our journey.

The Alchemist is a must read for all those who love reading inspiration novels or any novel for that matter. If you are a dreamer who believes in the beauty of dreams, this book will show you that it is possible to achieve your seemingly impossible and outlandish dreams. It would give you the leap of faith required to dive right into the river of your dreams.

Swati Ramnath

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