Sometimes in life, when a person wants something with enough passion, everything seems to go perfectly accordingly to how it was planned. Paulo Coelho, the author of the Alchemist, calls this desire a personal legend. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their personal legend is, and at that point in their lives everything is clear and possible. However, as time goes on, a mysterious force seems to blind us of achieving that goal. Through Santiago, the main character, and his attempts at reaching his personal legend, we can be reminded of our own personal legends and become more aware of everything around us.
When the story begins, we find Santiago as a young shepherd whose life is spent fulfilling his passion of traveling by herding his sheep through the fields and towns of Spain. He wakes one night in the middle of a re-occurring dream of discovering a buried treasure at the Pyramids of Egypt. After Santiago has his dream, he is soon visited by Melchizedek, the mysterious King of Salem, who tells him that soon after someone realizes their personal legend, all of the universe conspires in helping them achieve it, but only for a little while. After embarking upon his trip to Egypt, all of his money is stolen, leaving him with nothing. He must now struggle against not losing sight of his dream and his destiny.
The forces that keep Santiago in sight of his personal legend are not determination, but trust, fascination, and wonder. A scene that shows these attributes comes after Santiago leaves a comfortable oasis in Egypt, to attend to his dream once more. As he pauses in the desert, a horseman dressed in black rushes him, with a sword raised to kill. “Who dares read the meaning of the flight of the hawks?” he demanded. He does not flee nor does he attempt to fight and protect himself. Instead, Santiago bows his head for the blow and says, “It is I who dare to do so.
Many lives will be saved because I was able to see through to the soul of the world.” The man in the black slowly lowers his sword and explains to Santiago that he is the Alchemist. The things that Santiago learns from the relationship that they eventually form, show the boy’s lack of knowledge on how to attain one’s personal legend while also staying true to his dreams. “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy confides to the alchemist one night as they look up at a moonless 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.”I thought that Paulo Coelho did an outstanding job in writing this book.
I have never read a book that is capable of changing the reader’s life or the way that one looks at certain things. Gail Hudson, of Kirkus Reviews, and I agree on many aspects of the book and Paulo Coelho. She thinks that the book is “a bag of wind” that “Americans should flock to like gulls”. We also agree on the extraordinary writing skills of Paulo Coelho. He has been praised for his work on this book by Noble Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe, Madonna, and Julia Roberts. He is the second best-selling author in the world, selling 23,000,000 copies in more than 100 hundred countries, and is published in more than 42 different languages.
He has been recognized by the governments of 36 different countries for his writings and had won awards in France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Ireland, Spain, and the World Economic Forum. As Gail Hudson says, “A message clings to everything in the book”, therefore this book is full of little messages that remind us of our dreams and reignite a passion to achieve it. This is a beautiful book about life and the way it should be for each of us.
It is more of a fable and after you read it you realize that it is just a look into yourself at something you have known all along, but too many of us tend to forget. I was lucky enough for someone to share it with me, and after reading it I would recommend that everyone read this little fable about following your dreams. Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. San Francisco: Harper Flamingo, 1993. Hudson, Gail. “A Magical Little Volume.” Rev. of The Alchemist. Kirkus Reviews1 May 1993.
Coelho is a Brazilian writer with four books to his credit. Following Diary of a Magus (1992–not reviewed) came this book, published in Brazil in 1988: it’s an interdenominational, transcendental, inspirational fable–in other words, a bag of wind. The story is about a youth empowered to follow his dream.
Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd boy who learns through a dream of a treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. An old man, the king of Salem, the first of various spiritual guides, tells the boy that he has discovered his destiny: ”to realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.” So Santiago sells his sheep, sails to Tangier, is tricked out of his money, regains it through hard work, crosses the desert with a caravan, stops at an oasis long enough to fall in love, escapes from warring tribesmen by performing a miracle, reaches the pyramids, and eventually gets both the gold and the girl.
Along the way he meets an Englishman who describes the Soul of the World; the desert woman Fatima, who teaches him the Language of the World; and an alchemist who says, ”Listen to your heart.” A message clings like ivy to every encounter; everyone, but everyone, has to put in their two cents’ worth, from the crystal merchant to the camel driver (”concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man”).
The absence of characterization and overall blandness suggest authorship by a committee of self-improvement pundits–a far cry from Saint- Exupry’s The Little Prince: that flagship of the genre was a genuine charmer because it clearly derived from a quirky, individual sensibility. Coelho’s placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls.