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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Book Review: The Alchemist

By Paulo Coelho

· Paperback: 176 pages
· Publisher: Harper San Francisco (May 10, 1995)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 0062502182
· ISBN-13: 978-0062502186
“Where your heart is, there shall your treasure be also”
-----Luke 12:34

This parable centers on a young man named Santiago. Though his family wishes him to become a priest, he dreams of traveling and so with his father’s reluctant blessings he becomes a shepherd. Santiago spends a great deal of time with his sheep, learning the art of animal husbandry and believes that he has learned all that he needs to know from his close relationship with nature. Though he lives a mainly solitary life, he dreams of marrying a merchant’s daughter. 

One night he has a powerful dream in which a child instructs him to seek out a treasure which is buried near the Egyptian Pyramids. Santiago attempts to forget about his dream, but finds that he cannot. He consults a Gypsy woman known for her ability to interpret dreams. The un-named Gypsy listens to his dream and instructs him to go to Egypt and find the treasure. She expects no immediate payment from him, but asks for one tenth of his treasure in return for the services she provided. 

Santiago agrees to the arrangement, but is still unsure about what action he should take if any. He is conflicted between the known and the unknown. On one hand he is secure in the life of the shepherd, he knows what to expect each day and things rarely change. On the other hand, his dream compels him to find a treasure which promises to afford him all the things that he desires in his life…wealth, the ability to travel, and to marry. 

Finally, Santiago meets a man who claims to be the King of Salem who encourages him to follow his dream and offers him an ancient tool that will enable him to listen to the Soul of the World, the secret language with which all things communicate with one another. Santiago strikes a bargain with the King, who purchases one tenth of Santiago’s herd and which helps him to begin to finance his journey to the pyramids. 

Santiago sets about his journey to find the treasure promised of in his dream. Along the way he meets several characters who cause him to both question his choices as well as to confirm his personal destiny. Through his experiences with both friends and enemies he learns more about himself, the world, nature, and the importance of following one’s dreams. 

Though he struggles with his decisions Santiago continually finds omens that he believes lead him in the direction he wishes to go. Moving ever forward Santiago finally arrives in Egypt where his treasure awaits him, however, not in the form or even the place that he had expected. The ending provides an ironic twist that the reader doesn’t see coming but which reminds one of the importance of the journey over the destination.
I really liked this story and at only about 170 pages I was able to finish it in one sitting. However, some may find the fact that The Alchemist draws upon the religious mythology of both Christian and Muslim spirituality distasteful. However, for me, it didn’t detract from the central theme of the story which is to follow one’s dreams.

While some have criticized The Alchemist for presenting universal truths in a superficial manner, I prefer to read the story as a whole for its message. Though this book was originally published in 1988 (years before The Secret) there are hints to the Law of Attraction that has come to the forefront of society’s consciousness in the past several years. 

In short, I believe that nearly everyone can learn something from The Alchemist; and even if you don’t like the book, no one but the most die hard pessimist can deny there are worse things in life you can do than to follow your dream. 

Carolina Dean 

Purchase the Book 

1 comment:

aart hilal said...


I’m a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He’s the first best-selling author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

Have a nice day!