Have you ever wondered if you had a specific purpose in life, that nagging feeling that you were meant to do something, a destiny for which you’ve been placed on Earth, and all you have to do is to discover what it is? If so, then after reading The Alchemist you may have a better idea of what it is that you are feeling.
This book was originally published O Alquimista in Portuguese in 1988. It was first translated into English in 1993. Since then, it has sold millions of copies all over the world. The author did not expect his book to be as successful as it has been. In his introduction, he attests to this unforeseen accomplishment.
At the time, I was struggling to establish myself as a writer and to follow my path despite all the voices telling me it was impossible… And little by little, my dream was becoming reality.
After reading those two sentences, I realized that as simple as they may appear, they summarize beautifully the underlying message of his book.
One night Santiago, an Andalusian boy, dreams about the pyramids of Egypt, and because of the dream, he sets off on a journey that takes him from his homeland in southern Spain, across the Mediterranean sea to Egypt, in search of a treasure buried near the pyramids. The Alchemist is a fable about Santiago and the journey he takes to find his treasure. Along the way he meets people including a gypsy woman, a thief, a merchant, an Englishman, and the soldiers of the desert, all of whom play a critical role in helping Santiago complete his odyssey.
The Alchemist is inspiring, thought-provoking, and beautiful. It is about dreams. Not just any dream, but the dream we have that extends from a thought we’ve all had at one time or another: ‘I exist for a reason.’ Paul Coelho describes an idea that he refers to as a Personal Legend, or our destiny, and his story of Santiago serves as an example of his idea. Coelho does not offer a word-for-word-how-to manual on how to go about finding your own Personal Legend. Instead, like any good fable, it is filled metaphors and allegories, where scenes and images are not to be taken literally, and that are meant to make the reader think for him or herself and about their own lives.
This book reminds me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull written by Richard Bach. Both books have stories that are very simple, but which are filled with truths that are often overlooked and with underlying messages that hint at what some of the answers about life.
Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t stop until I finished every word. What you take away from The Alchemist is what you allow yourself to absorb. I think it is a book that I will be reading again and again.