The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho …Review by Yokibu Editorial
Posted on: February 14, 2021.

“The Alchemist” is an inspiring story of a dreamy yet ambitious shepherd named Santiago who lives in the rolling hills of Andalusia in Spain. He chooses to be a shepherd as he loves to wander through places.

He often dreams of discovering treasure hidden beneath the pyramids of Egypt but, unfortunately, mostly wakes up when he is about to reach the exact location of the treasure.

He embarks on his journey to Africa where he knows Egypt is. He travels from Tarifa in Spain to Tangier in Morocco and through the deserts of Sahara to the oasis of Al-Fayoum.

The beauty of Al-Fayoum is described in the most alluring manner through descriptions oasis, horizon, campfires, 50,000 date palms, colourful tents, dunes, dark chilly nights, and the Arabic way of living.

On the journey to achieving his ambitious dreams of finding treasure, Santiago meets people who help direct him towards his destination. His encounter with an old king strengthens his beliefs about living his destiny.

He learns to believe in “omen” and to “feel the soul of the world”. Both terms are frequently used by the author, Paulo Coelho, meaning to relate with the soul of nature.

In the course of his travels, Santiago understands the relationship between man and nature. Violence, confusion, and despair become the milestones of his quest for treasure and the meaning of life.

The setting of the novel is real, but events are magical. In the oasis of Al-Fayoum, he encounters Fatima, an Arab girl of the desert, and a 200-year-old wise man, “The Alchemist”.

He mentors Santiago to learn throughout his journey of life and to achieve the actual treasure. All this leads him to personal legend that converges on the idea of ‘a conspiring universe’.

He learns that life means constant change because, “Everything on Earth is being continuously transformed, because the earth is alive … and it has a soul.”

As the story moves, the events get connected impeccably. It is not necessary for readers to agree with each and every ideological element in Coelho’s novel. The reader’s reason and rationale may contrast a few ideas.

But the reader has to have the ability to read between the lines, for despite being very unreal, it is an eloquent story that enlightens the reader with its thought-provoking ideas of spirituality and destiny.

The author believes dreams have a price and not living the dreams has an even bigger price. The idea of seeking dreams is marvellous and forms the core philosophy of the author’s work.

Pursuing a dream and committing to it makes the whole universe conspire make it come true. When a person strives to live his dream, nature helps him out to seek the object of his dream.

As written in The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Santiago learns a lot from his journey, which the reader also learns, while enjoying the literary experience.

He learns how to deal with himself with nothing in his pocket and nothing on his mind, which is expressed in the line, “He had not a cent in his pocket, but he had faith.”

When you listen to what your heart says, you learn to live with strength. The only thing that restrains you from moving ahead is fear. Santiago confesses, “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer”.

To which the alchemist, his guide in the desert, replies, “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself”.

The alchemist speaks of beauty which resides in enjoying simple yet deep things in life. “It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.”

When he learns that there is a language in this world without words, he feels, “If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.”

Two significant paragraphs in the book promote the idea of living in present and investing all your strength and energy in your present, which is really helpful for a better future—

“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.”

For some readers, The Alchemist would be a good reading experience to escape reality, while for others, to understand reality. The story has multiple dimensions, and is delightful in more than one way.


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