The Alchemist

The Alchemist

Rating: 4 out of 5

Author: Paulo Coelho

Year: 2006

Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco

ISBN: 0061122416

This book was given to me by a good friend of mine a couple of days back. I was told that its a really simple book with a lot to read between the lines. While I was reading the book, I asked a couple of other friends what they thought about the book, and I got mixed reviews. A couple of people thought that the book was //too// simplistic, too naive in some sense. Not a lot of depth or subtlety. Some remembered it as a fable. Some thought it was cute and simple, but nothing more. Some didn’t remember it much, so not very memorable or impressive.

Anyways, I’d been really lagging behind my reading so I tried to finish the book quickly. Which was not hard because its a short book and a really easy read. As you may know, The Alchemist is the story of a boy — a young shepherd — and his journey to find a treasure. His travels take him across Africa, all the way to Egypt, and en route he meets a lot of people who shape his life — a gypsy woman, a crystal merchant, an Englishman, and of couse, an alchemist.

Two things stood out in the book:
* it paints a really simple picture of the world. In some ways it reminds me of [[wp>Gita|the Gita]] — all situations, all dilemmas can be distilled to some basic questions, and those basic questions usually have equally basic answers. So the world is more black-and-white rather than grey. Most of the emotions depicted in the book are pure and intense — be it love, or fear.
* the recurring theme in the book is going after your //Personal Legend// and being able to speak the //Language of the World//. These concepts haven’t been laid out concretely in the book — instead Paulo Coelho tries to build up the concept using allusions and incidents. Thats one thing I really liked about the book. Since not a whole lot has been laid out as far as the philosophical issues go, its very open to interpretation. In some sense, as you read the book, you will build up your own concept of a Personal Legend and the Language of the World. For some of us, Language of the World may simply mean science — unquestionable, universal truth. For others, it may be something much more abstract, much more amorphous, such as [[wp>Gaia_philosophy|the Gaia philosophy]].

I liked the book because its uplifting. It fills me with hope and courage. And above all, it tells me that I should never stop dreaming. I like the Introduction by Paulo where he is talking about the four things that stand in the way of our personal calling. And so true:
* We grow up being told that pretty much everything is impossible to do
* We are afraid of losing our loved ones in pursuit of our dreams
* We are afraid of failures
* “the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives”


  1. Olivier

    Can I suggest you to look at this little book : Siddhartha (author: Hermann Hesse). IMHO, I think it’s a better initiatory book (it’s not Manichean).

  2. Diwaker Gupta

    *@olivier*: Hello! Thanks for the suggestion! Yes, I’ve heard of the book before from a lot of people and almost started reading it once. Its still on my TO-READ list, hopefully soon :-)

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