The Alchemist : Paulo Coelho
I had written this review last year as the editor of my company’s magazine. Found it just now.
I read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho lately, and I must acknowledge, the book certainly has something about it. The book has become so popular with critics and readers alike that it has achieved a kind of cult status. Here’s a brief share of my encounter with this masterpiece.
‘The Alchemist’ is a simple, inspiring, yet exhilarating novel that oozes sanguinity. It’s just what the doctor prescribed if you are at a point in your life where you don’t know what path to follow, and is a great read even otherwise. It is the kind of novel that tells you that everything is possible as long as you really want it to happen. It talks about dreams and the courage to achieve them. The heart of the novel’s philosophy is, “When you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”, and this message echoes throughout Coelho’s writing. (Even SRK in Om Shanti Om says so… I wonder if he took a cue from Coelho :) ).
The Brazilian author takes us on journey with Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to acquire a distant treasure, after he dreams about it one night. Santiago’s incredible journey to the deserts of Egypt is strewn with meetings with fascinating people, like the crystal merchant who unwittingly teaches him lessons for life, the Englishman, and eventually the alchemist. What make the journey special are the many lessons Santiago learns during his adventures. “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy confides to the alchemist one night. “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself,” the alchemist replies. “And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” The book is speckled with numerous such lessons and messages that we were taught as kids through the wise-sayings of our elders, but have forgotten in day-to-day life.
The story is simple, yet exotic and mystical, and re-introduces us to some old fables and the “signs” that we begin to take for granted. It talks about unassuming things like love, and how we fool ourselves that love will become a hindrance in our path to achieve our dreams. Through the various characters and instances, Coelho iterates that love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny. It can only be a stimulant, not a deterrent.
Coelho lays great emphasis on good omens throughout the story. The boy discovers that those who read most are not necessarily great observers and that, through observation, man can learn many things which books fail to teach. Coelho writes: “Simple things are the most valuable and only wise people appreciate them.”
This is a novel that appeals to people of all ages instantly because it is like a bedtime story told in an exotic and mystical manner. A must read for all dreamers, or for that matter, everyone, because let’s face it, we are all dreamers, and need to be told and encouraged that dreams do come true as long as we believe in them. If you are beginner with books, this might be a good pick for you as the language is pretty simple and the plot very entertaining. And at Rs.195, it’s a bargain!