This novel is an allegory. The story is a journey narrative in which Santiago’s experiences are used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences. The Alchemist follows a young man named Santiago as he attempts to fulfill his destiny.
Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd who spends his days herding sheep and his nights sleeping under the stars. However, one night he has a foretelling dream about treasure and the Egyptian pyramids. And, the next day, he has the same dream, which is why he seeks the advice of a gypsy fortuneteller. Santiago’s dream is explained by the fortuneteller, who also gives him advice on what to do next. Santiago, of course, listens, or else the story would come to an end, but he still travels to Tarifa in southern Spain.
Santiago gets obsessed with carrying out the prophecy in Tarifa. He doesn’t do it voluntarily; rather, a stranger, who turns out to be Melchizedek, the biblical ruler of Salem, convinces him that “when you genuinely want something to happen, the entire world will cooperate to make your desire come true.” He also tells Santiago that everyone is born to fulfill their legend, but few people pursue their dreams and complete them, and those who do will regret their decisions. As a result, Santiago sells his sheep and gives up everything to seek his prophecy and realize your destiny. Ow and the king forewarned him about the signs and gave him some magical rocks to aid in his decision-making.
If everything went according to plan, the narrative would be brief and dull. So, as soon as he gets in Africa, everything goes wrong, and he learns his first lesson in Tanger. He learns to be wary of his surroundings and to be aware of his surroundings. Santiago was stolen of all his money, leaving him destitute and in a strange place. This is the point at which he encounters another significant figure. In Tanger, he meets the owner of a crystal glass business. The shopkeeper is one of many individuals in this world who have given up on their legend. He demonstrates that everyone has a legend, but only a few attempt to fulfill it. Most individuals are content with what they have and are afraid of losing it or being disappointed by the finish of their legend.
In the pages that follow, he encounters a variety of people who tell him their stories. He encounters a British explorer and researcher in quest of the philosopher stone, a centuries-old mystery alchemist who teaches Santiago a great deal, Bedouins, bandits, warlords, a Coptic monk, the love of his life, and god. This is an epic adventure that will last several years, and it will include many learning opportunities and hard experiences for Santiago.
Finally, Santiago’s quest prompts the reader to ponder what the notion of a treasure entails. This is due to the fact that Santiago discovers and loses a great deal of wealth, makes money, meets people, learns new things, and falls in love. So, what is the true treasure Santiago has found, because sometimes the journey itself is the treasure.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” — Paulo Coelho
Who is the author
Paulo Coelho (1947) is a Brazilian novelist who was born in Rio de Janeiro. He had always wanted to be a writer, so he chased his goal and made it a reality. As Santiago, Coelho found his legend and attempted with some succes to complete it. His writings are now read all over the world and translated into nearly every language.
However, Coelho was not an overnight success. His second book, The Alchemist, did not perform well at first. Coelho’s rights to the book were even returned by the publishing industry. But, like Santiago in The Alchemist, Coelho never gave up and pursued his dreams, and he overcame obstacles and discovered his treasure. As a result, Santiago may become Coelho.
The list of parallels goes on. For example, one can draw a relationship between Coelho and the religious references in The Alchemist. The book mentions Melchizedek, the biblical king of Salem, a soldier who met Jesus of Nazareth, God’s invisible hand that guides the earth, and other religious insights. This can be explained by the fact that Coelho is a devout Catholic, was reared by strict Brazilian Catholics, and made a visit to the grave of apostle Saint James the Greater Santiago de Compostella a few years before writing The Alchemist. This pilgrimage could explain the main character’s name, Santiago.
To read or not to read
Easy to read, not difficult, fantastic plot, a great fable with a nice lesson. Every child needs to know that they should pursue their ambitions or “personal mythologies.” Coelho’s world is likewise really beautifully written. Everything that happens in The Alchemist is clearly depicted, and it sometimes feels like you’re witnessing a movie. This makes reading the story a pleasant experience.
However, the message is also rather ambiguous. Santiago is pretty reckless; he simply abandons everything and embarks on an adventure. So maybe don’t take the narrative too literally and abandon all your commitments to chase after dreams. Another thing that intrigued me was the story’s finalism; the novel implies that everything is predestined by a mystery god and that fates are inscribed in stone. On the other side, people appear to oppose these fates, making them both inevitable and optional, which doesn’t make much sense. In addition, the story emphasizes the importance of following your heart, but the heart might be misguided. Because the heart is not rational, it can be quite irrational; sometimes what the heart desires is incorrect. So, instead of constantly following your heart, one should follow both their heart and their brain. Being content with what you have is also a positive trait; however, greed and gluttony are not.
Dare to dream and carve your own path, but do so with caution. Take the story with a grain of salt and allow it to inspire you to create your own mythology. King Melchizedek may be true or incorrect, but the only way to know is to work hard to discover and live out your own personal narrative. The beginning is never easy, but perseverance pays off, and the prize is always there; you only have to know what to look for.
‘Life is a journey, not a destination, Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Alchemist (1988)
Written by Paulo Coelho (1946)
184 pages. HarperCollins Publishers Inc.