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Old Friday, August 03, 2007
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Default The Alchemist

Review of The Alchemist By Paulo Coelho

Dreams, symbols, signs, and adventure follow the reader like echoes of ancient wise voices in "The Alchemist", a novel that combines an atmosphere of Medieval mysticism with the song of the desert. With this symbolic masterpiece Coelho states that we should not avoid our destinies, and urges people to follow their dreams, because to find our "Personal Myth" and our mission on Earth is the way to find "God", meaning happiness, fulfillment, and the ultimate purpose of creation

The Alchemist is a wonderfully simple story of a young shepherd who follows his dreams of treasure and encounters many experiences and people, learning wisdom and life lessons along the way. Paulo Coelho has skillfully woven many bits of truth and wisdom about life into this masterpiece, and it is a true delight to read. Just like it teaches, it is not the destination, but the journey with this book, that counts.

It doesn't matter if you're searching for buried treasure, or for love, or for the secret of turning lead into gold. It doesn't matter if you die trying, never reaching your goal. It doesn't matter if you don't find what you're looking for, once you get there. What matters is what you've brought with you on the way, and what you've learned along the way. The people you meet, the hardships and heartaches you go through, the lessons your experiences has taught you.

The Alchemist tells you how to turn lead into gold. It tells you of the wonder and the uncertainty of change and evolution, the secret of enjoying the beauty of life without becoming hardened by the harshness of reality, the art of living in the moment without worrying about the past or the future, and most importantly, the ultimate secret of the universe, that we are all interconnected. We are all one.

"The Alchemist", is an exciting novel that bursts with optimism; it is the kind of novel that tells you that everything is possible as long as you really want it to happen. That may sound like an oversimplified version of new-age philosophy and mysticism, but as Coelho states "simple things are the most valuable and only wise people appreciate them".

As the alchemist himself says, when he appears to Santiago in the form of an old king "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true". This is the core of the novel's philosophy and a motif that echoes behind Coelho's writing all through "The Alchemist". And isn't it true that the whole of humankind desperately wants to believe the old king when he says that the greatest lie in the world is that at some point we lose the ability to control our lives, and become the pawns of fate. Perhaps this is the secret of Coelho's success: that he tells people what they want to hear, or rather that he tells them that what they wish for but never thought possible could even be probable.

Coelho also suggests that those who do not have the courage to follow their " Personal Myth", are doomed to a life of emptiness, misery, and unfulfillment. Fear of failure seems to be the greatest obstacle to happiness. As the old crystal-seller tragically confesses: " I am afraid that great disappointment awaits me, and so I prefer to dream". This is where Coelho really captures the drama of man, who sacrifices fulfillment to conformity, who knows he can achieve greatness but denies to do so, and ends up living a life of void.

It is interesting to see that Coelho presents the person who denies to follow his dream as the person who denies to see God, and that "every happy person carries God within him". However, only few people choose to follow the road that has been made for them, and find God while searching for their destiny, and their mission on earth

It has been compared to Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince and Herman Hesse's Siddhartha. I have read both, and while they both have their own beauty and teach their own wisdom, The Alchemist touches people in its own quiet way.

Themes

Fate Vs. Will

Fate is constantly intertwined with will, and a key theme of the book focuses on how much in life is under one's control, and how much is controlled by fate. The old king states that the world's greatest lie is that "at some point during our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate." While this point of view strongly supports that will has a stronger hold on one's destiny, later events, such as Santiago and the alchemist being caught by warring tribes, demonstrate fate's hold on one's life. However, in every situation where fate does take over, the characters are capable to excavate themselves from the situation. For, instance, after being caught by the tribal chief, Santiago is able to turn himself into the wind, demonstrate his power, and is released.

Love

Love is described as a part of the Soul of the World. Love occurs in life and Nature, as everything supports each other, they love each other. Santiago tells the desert that it shows love for the alchemist's falcon by offering it game, after which the falcon shows love to man as it offers the game to eat, and the man shows love for the desert as after one dies, his body is reintegrated into the desert sands. There is also love in people, demonstrated by Santiago's love of Fatima's beauty, and Santiago's knowing that it is part of his Personal Legend to love her. Also, there is true love, a brief definition given by the alchemist;

"True love is love that allows you to reach your Personal Legend."

Controlled Luck

The theme of controlled luck is prominent in this book, as the old king and the alchemist both tell Santiago about how if one really wants to fulfill his/her Personal Legend, the whole universe will conspire to help make it happen. Coelho refers to this as the idea of "beginner's luck", or the concept of favorability. Santiago is blessed with beginner's luck, when he decides to go to Africa. He manages to sell all of his sheep very easily, and is given "a taste of success" that whets the appetite to fulfill one's Personal Legend.

Spiritual Enlightenment

In The Alchemist, a kind of spiritual enlightenment is accomplished by fulfilling one's Personal Legend, and adding to the Soul of the World, which is the "light" of most religions (as described in Coelho's Beliefnet Interview). The spiritual influence of this book is omniscient, for example in Santiago's "turning himself into the wind" stunt. He learns the Language of the World, which is basically the language of the Soul of the World. As the Soul of the World is related to the Soul of God, Santiago is able to perform miracles after he has reached into the Soul of the World.

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What I like about the book is that it teaches you to live your life well. Live every moment in the moment. Let go of anything that is an encumberance. Follow your dreams. Have fun and enjoy everything life has to offer, but don't forget the things that really matter. Let go of things that are not within your control. Live your life and let others live theirs, what works for you may not work for them and vice versa. There is something to be learnt in everything.

There is so much wisdom contained within the pages of this little book, but for me, the most important one, is to enjoy every minute of your life. We all have goals in life, we have dreams to fulfill and successes to achieve. We need to remember to stop once in a while, and smell each rose and count each star in the sky. It is not the destination, but the journey, that counts.

"The Alchemist" is a novel that may appeal to everybody, because we can all identify with Santiago: all of us have dreams, and are dying for somebody to tell us that they may come true. The novel skillfully combines words of wisdom, philosophy, and simplicity of meaning and language, which makes it particularly readable. So do read this novel and I am sure you will enjoy it.

Regards,
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Last edited by Muskan Ghuman; Friday, August 03, 2007 at 01:42 AM.
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Old Friday, August 03, 2007
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A nice and comprehensive review by Ms Muskan.
to add to the overall spirit of this short piece of literature, it reminds me of a line from an all time great movie from across the border. It went like an advice to a patient who is on his death bead, and is told:

" Don't count the limited moments of your life , but count unliminted number of lives in every moment"............
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Old Wednesday, November 04, 2009
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Default plot of the alchemist

hi there.....
a strange fact about alchemist is that its plot has been taken from "Masnawi " by Maulana Roomie

No one is to be despaired of as long as he breathes.(While there is life there is hope__Erasmus )
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