Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: Harper Collins
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One of the best works of Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist is not only philosophy, it is good philosophy. It tells us that life is not about the consequences, but about the journey.
The book tells the story of a journey which covers two continents, during which it transforms the thinking and perceptions of the traveller, Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd. There isn’t much need for a plot etched out in detail, and neither is the plot of primary importance; frankly, it is incidental to the story. Rather, Coelho has concentrated on the truth behind the meanings and ideas of certain consequences, and the actions preceding them.
Different readers will find different things to enjoy in the book. For me, the most interesting aspect of the book was not the protagonist, but the magical stones, Urim and Thummim.
The crux of the novel is mouthed by the alchemist himself – “When you want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. Throughout Santiago’s journey, a multitude of simple yet profound philosophies are presented, right from the beginning of the book. Coelho infuses these into the story in a charming manner which does not burden the reader.
One may not be able to totally absorb the novel if it isn’t read in a restricted number of sittings. I personally finished it in two sittings, as the force behind the philosophies make a deeper impact on oneself if one reads it quickly. After all, the question that arises after one finishes the novel is not regarding the story, but about how well the reader could absorb the lesson weaved into the tale. The whole purpose of the novel is to dive inside and find yourself, of course, with the help of Santiago.
The length is and isn’t a problem. One can finish reading the 150-odd pages of big font-sized text in one go. However, one gets so involved in this journey of treasuries that the early ending will leave one wishing there were more. This, in fact, can be considered the single main negative point of the book. Though it is not the greatest piece of literature, The Alchemist can hold ground just because of its content, and the hidden gems of meaning between the lines.
The novel is best read when in an introspective mood. It is because of the wide popularity of this book that I read Coelho’s other works too, but these, for me, never touched the heights that The Alchemist did. Now I can say with the utmost belief and satisfaction, that The Alchemist is Coelho’s best book till date.