Sunday, September 07, 2014

Book Review: THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho

Book Details. . .

·         Title: The Alchemist
·         Author: Paulo Coelho
·         Genre: Fiction
·         Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers India (2005)
·         Pages: 192 Pages
·         Price: INR 199
·         Rating: 4/5

Behind The Book. . .


It is the story of a shepherd boy from the Spanish province of Andalusia who dreams of travelling the world in search of a treasure as desirable as any ever found. From his home he journeys to the exotic markets of North Africa and then into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him...

It is an unforgettable story about the essential wisdom of listening to our heart and, above all, following our dreams.

Book Synopsis. . .

I always believe that fables and tales, at times, are the best antidotes to counter the dejection and stress in the life not cause they introduces some extraordinarily dangerous fanatical creatures but because they re-affirm the belief that howsoever dangerous & fanatical the circumstances are, they can surely be overpowered & conquered and in the end its always the Happy Ending !!!

The Alchemist is just the fable of that cadre and much more. It depicts the story of a shepherd boy named Santiago who derives joy and pleasure in travelling the places & exploring and experiencing the world. It’s about the dilemma he faces when a sudden vision always haunts him in sleep compelling him to follow the same while he almost knows in heart that his dream is actually attainable.

Santiago is a shepherd, a life he chose himself over the more lucrative career options he had, just to follow his desire to travel and explore the world. He is simple, innocent and his needs are few. His only possession includes a jacket, a flock of sheep and a book which he trades for another once he reads the same. He is fond of reading and through-out his journey along with his herd, he carries some book with him. His only companions in his sojourn are his flock of sheep with them he shares his desires, his sorrows, his happiness and (sometimes) the small anecdotes from the book he is reading.

There is that merchant’s daughter whom he had met a year ago when he has gone to some village to sell his wool & whom he is about to meet days hence. Also, there is a recurring dream which keeps disturbing him whenever he sleeps, making reference to some treasure in Egypt. He goes to gypsy woman to interpret the dream who tells him to go to Egypt in search of a treasure. He dismisses her thought upfront but is forced to re-think when a strange, magical, old man re-echoes old lady’s thought and persuades him to sell off his flock & go to Egypt with secret to pay heed & follow the omens as they appear in his journey.

Should he stay and marry the simple shop keeper’s daughter or risk everything to seek after treasure? Santiago feels torn up between meeting the merchant’s daughter or follow the quest of pursuing his dream and eventually begins his journey to the land of pyramids to accomplish his own Personal Legend. His journey starts with a dubious experience when he is robbed off his belongings by a thief reducing him to rags with virtually nothing to bank upon. He trusts his instincts and start working with a shopkeeper. His fortunes does turnaround within a year when he earns sufficient cash to kick start is journey once again. He joins a caravan crossing the Sahara desert toward Egypt and continues his journey towards treasure.

The caravan takes an extended halt in one of the village wherein he encounters a young girl Fatima and the flower of love blossoms between the two. He also meets the alchemist who teaches him various about the importance of listening to his heart and pursuing his Personal Legend. He convinces Santiago to temporarily leave Fatima and the caravan for the time to finish his journey to the pyramids, and he offers to accompany Santiago in his journey of hidden treasure.

What is that recurring dream that haunts Santiago in his sleep? Who is that strange old man who persuades him to go to Egypt to follow his dreams? How does his fortune turns when he is robbed off his belongings? Who is the Alchemist? What does He teaches him? Does Santiago eventually get hold of the treasure? What does the treasure actually turn out to be?

Grab a copy of the book to unearth the answers to above and to be a part of Santiago’s magical journey that is bound to reveal many pearls of wisdom to you.

My Thoughts. . .

There are certain books that speak most directly to us at a particular stage in our lives and our lives change. These are those pieces of literature that give us what we most need at that particular time and thus always remain with us. The Alchemist is one of such books which have something for everyone in whatsoever situation or soup he currently finds himself in. The power of The Alchemist lies in its simple yet extraordinary pearls of wisdom that embodies all that’s required to pull a silent lied down heart from nadir to zenith.

This books was lying with me since long and for some strange reasons it took a while for me to catch hold of this (perhaps because I am not a keen reader of self-help books) and when I picked this up, there was no looking back. And once I completed this, I had a regret of not picking this earlier. In today’s world of negativity and distrust, I strongly believe that everyone is in need of some positivity – no matter in whatever forms it comes. This book does bestow that much needed positivity in your life; not just that, it silently kindles those little dreams of yours which perhaps are now buried under the burden of daily struggle for survival. It makes us remember those again and provides us an impetus that those are indeed attainable. The novel skillfully blends Santiago’s fable with words of wisdom, and philosophy which makes it particularly readable and supports its bestselling status.

The books like ‘The Alchemist’ are devoid of any negatives. Even if there is one, that gets drowned by the waves of positive sentiments in the deep sea of inner realization. The book is quite lucid and compact in representation. However, some readers might just find it slightly philosophical & preaching at some junctures. Hence, those interested in pure fictional piece might feel slightly disappointed. Further, there is a small supernatural angle to the story which might just gel with some of the readers. Moreover the story has so many different layers and depths to it, that you might not get a full grasp of the book in the first read.

I always say the title and cover of the book assumes greater relevance for a reader to decide whether he wants to read a book or not. The title of the book ‘The Alchemist’ at the outset may appear a bit strange creating curiosity in readers’ mind as to what is the story all about. However, once you have read the book, you seem to get hold of the connection and affirm that the title is indeed apt. The word alchemist comes from alchemy which means the art of transmuting metals. Alchemists could be considered very early chemists because of their work trying to transform base metals into gold. During the course of reading the book we actually discern that the title actually stands out both literally and symbolically – literally as the alchemist do play a cital role in connecting the story & symbolically as the alchemist during the course of his association with Santiago impart him those pearls of wisdom that are capable of converting his persona into lustrous gold.

The cover page is pleasant and thoughtful with rising sun peeping its way behind the majestic pyramids filling the whole background with golden gleams. The tagline below the name says, “A fable about following your dreams”. The printing, font and word spacing are decent enough to grant reader a comfortable read.

The Final Word. . .

The Alchemist is one of those books which have to be experienced and not explained. It offers you the chance to ponder over the meaning of life & the relevance of the dreams in it; as it truly says, “It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” It’s surely such a powerful medium to boost your inner self that one shouldn’t actually miss this.

It is not one of those books which are to be bought, read and left. On the contrary, it belongs to that category which is meant to be read, preserved and revisited. And at every read it is bound to provide you insights – some new one, some old forgotten ones.

Grab this masterpiece. . . must read specially for those whose heart rules over their head (as the silent remembering of that sleeping dream is bound to bring smile on your face) and for those whose doesn’t – let your heart rule the head once and experience the book!!!

Rating: 4/5

Five Favorite Quotes. . .

1.   And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it

2.      It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting

3.    When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too

4.     Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity

5.    Why do we have to listen to our hearts?" the boy asked. "Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you will find your treasure.

About the Author. . .

Paulo Coelho, born in 1947, is an author and songwriter. He has authored Eleven Minutes, Veronika Decides to Die, The Witch of Portobello, Brida, The Pilgrimage, and The Zahir.
One of the most popular authors in the world, Coelho initially had a very lucrative career as a lyricist and theatre director, but he quit that to become a full-time writer. Having published over thirty books, Coelho also maintains a regular blog called Walking The Path. He has been awarded numerous prestigious international awards such as the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum, the The Honorable Award of the President of the Republic by the President of Bulgaria, and was named the Messenger of Peace of the United Nations in 2007. His wife, Christina Oiticica, and him, divide their time between Europe and Rio de Janeiro.

Paulo Coelho Discusses the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Alchemist (Source: )

What originally inspired you to write The Alchemist?
Coelho: My dream was to be a writer. I wrote my first book in 1987, The Pilgrimage, after completing my own personal pilgrimage from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. After that I thought, “Why did it take me so long to fulfill my dream?” So I decided to write a metaphor, and this metaphor is The Alchemist: a novel about someone who needs to fulfill his or her dream, but takes too long because he or she thinks it’s impossible.

The Alchemist has sold over 150 million copies worldwide, won 115 international prizes and awards, has been translated into 80 languages, and is still on the New York Times bestseller list today, 25 years after its initial publication. What impact has this success had on your life?
Coelho: Of course The Alchemist opened a lot of doors for me. At the moment I’m answering this question, the novel is still on The New York Times bestseller list. But success did not happen overnight, so I had time to get used to it. The book was not something that exploded all of a sudden. I believe success can be a blessing, and it can also be a curse. I was older when the recognition came, so I had another level of maturity to face that change. When it happened, I remember thinking, “My God, this is a blessing. " So above all, I had to respect it. And the way to respect it is to really understand that a blessing has no explanation, but needs to be treasured and honored.

Do you closely relate to any of the characters in The Alchemist? If so, how?
Coelho: In The Alchemist, I relate myself to the Englishman - someone who is trying to understand life through books. It’s quite interesting how many times we use books to understand life. I think that a book is a catalyst: it provokes a reaction. I am a compulsive reader. I read a lot, but from time to time, there are books that changed my life. Well, it’s not that the book itself changed my life; it’s that I was already ready to change, and needed to not feel alone. The same thing happens with the Englishman in The Alchemist.

What have you discovered about your own personal destiny in the past 25 years since writing The Alchemist?
Coelho: What I learned after writing The Alchemist, after the worldwide success, is basically that I had a dream, a Personal Legend to fulfill. To be a writer is to write. To write means new books. New books mean new challenges. Of course, I could have stopped with The Alchemist a long time ago if I was only in it for money, but I really love what I do. I can’t see myself not writing. It’s not always an easy task, sometimes it’s very challenging, but this is what I do and this is what I like. So the journey itself is the miracle; it is the blessing. There is no point to reach. You have to travel your journey with joy, hope, and challenges in your heart.

Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Coelho: To my readers and my fans, basically my companions, I would say that spirituality is being brave, is taking risks, is daring to do something when people are always telling you not to. My parents, for example, did not want me to be a writer, and that’s why it took so long for me to fulfill my dream. But here I am, thanks to that moment after my pilgrimage from France to Spain, when I said to myself, "I can’t live with a dream that I did not even try to fulfill. " Do the same thing.

Where to grab a copy. . .

~ Shubh Life . . . OM Sai Ram 

© 2014 Manish Purohit (Reserved)

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