The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho (1988) E

Date read: 1.24.06
Read from: Public library
Reviewer: Emera

A young shepherd boy in Andalusia dreams of finding treasure among the Great Pyramids, and, determined to follow his dream, makes his way towards Egypt. As he travels, he encounters (among others) a gypsy, a king, a thief, an Englishman, and finally, an alchemist, each of whom aids him in his journey towards understanding of his “Personal Legend—” the dream that, in being accomplished, helps to nourish the universe itself.

As I put it when I originally reviewed this book: this is a very, very sweet book. Normally I hesitate to read “inspirational” books, and I did occasionally find it difficult to take The Alchemist seriously, particularly because the author kept on repeating several “key phrases” throughout the book, such that they eventually took on the feeling of spiritual buzzwords.

However, The Alchemist is so peaceful and simply told, with its spare, folkloric language, that it’s a pleasure to read by itself – it leaves you with a comforting afterglow, so to speak. To my surprise, I also found myself liking the nameless main character a good deal in the end, despite the story largely being allegorical, and the characters hence representative rather than specific. I can see why this is such a popular book, and has become a chief inspiration to a number of my acquaintances, including the friend who encouraged me to read it to begin with. It’s very gently encouraging, and espouses a luminously optimistic view of the universe and the place of individual humans within it. This would be useful to those who might feel they’ve been faltering in following their passions, I think.

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Paulo Coelho

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  1. kakaner’s avatar

    *sigh* sadly I just really don’t like the concept of Paul Coelho. I read the alchemist once a upon a time and found it rather boring. I think I’m just prejudiced against inspirational books.. I feel it is impossible for them to not be cheesy.

    This reminds me of Veronika Decides to Die (LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL). I think I will post that soon.

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  2. Emera’s avatar

    I think that as inspirational books go (having of course read a grand total of one other, which I consider your fault… having as it did a certain topic of mustard sandwiches), The Alchemist is probably one of the least obnoxious out there, since it’s at least stylistically pleasing and fairly restrained so far as message-flinging goes.

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