Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is so beloved by so many from all around the world that I feel so inadequate to write a fitting review. So I apologise for not being able to find the right words to capture my sentiments about the story. Words always elude me when it comes to the good ones.
Brazilian storyteller Paulo Coehlo introduces Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. And so he’s off: leaving Spain to literally follow his dream. Along the way he meets many spiritual messengers, who come in unassuming forms such as a camel driver and a well-read Englishman. In one of the Englishman’s books, Santiago first learns about the alchemists–men who believed that if a metal were heated for many years, it would free itself of all its individual properties, and what was left would be the “Soul of the World.” Of course he does eventually meet an alchemist, and the ensuing student-teacher relationship clarifies much of the boy’s misguided agenda, while also emboldening him to stay true to his dreams. “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy confides to the alchemist one night as they look up at a moonless night.
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself,” the alchemist replies. “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.”
And so it goes for a story about following one’s dreams. Santiago’s arduous journey is also ours and a reminder that we are never too old to dream, and definitely never too old to fulfill them.
I actually bought this book years ago after listening to many raved reviews. On a trip to Down Under, I brought it along. 20 pages into it I threw it aside, feeling cheated and a waste of my time. Only last week in a meeting, I was treated to a Will Smith video where he mentions about the book very positively. Then the rest, as they say, is history. This is a very eloquent depiction of the indelible human spirit as God has always intended for each of us. As I read Santiago’s story I found myself getting connected with Him and everything else. The narrative never feels preachy, cloying or manipulative. It has wisdom by the truckloads and life lessons aimed at your soul. Anyone can tell you their favourite story from the book, and mine is the one in which Santiago searches for the meaning of his dream and meets an old man who teaches him four lessons. If I have 10 minutes to spare in a lesson, I sometimes end it by sharing this and watch the classroom transform into a magical place where learning goes beyond textbooks.
This is an awesome book and deserves to be on every literature lover’s bookshelf and it demands to read and re-read as one matures. Other than some great life-affirming lessons, I learned something else – I realise the reason I could not get into the book previously was that I was still young; not young in terms of age (I was in my 20s when I first tried reading it) but in terms of maturity. Going through many trials and tribulations have made me a lot more open to stuff. One should never be scared to face the bad times in life. It makes one become a better person if one so want it to be; just my 2 cents of wisdom.