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The Alchemist
Book Review
Namra Khurshid


Author: Paulo Cuelho

Publisher: HarperTorch

Pages: 163

Year: 1988

ISBN: 0-06-250217-4


In today’s contemporary world, our minds are stacked with an already laid path to follow. We adore those who carve their own different way but rare is the sight of such aspiration whilst our soul remains thirsty of such inspiration.

The Alchemist is a concise 177 paged book written on the core idea of following one’s dream. In this book, Paulo Coelho - the writer metaphorically writes about a boy who is a shepherd. Belonging from a poor family, the boy wants to see big cities but he has no money to travel so he became a shepherd because in the villages of Spain only shepherds got to see the world by travelling from one place to another. At that moment, the boy notices that his father had wanted the same but abandoned the dream for the sustenance of his family. The boy was mystical and dreamt twice that he was at the great Pyramids of Egypt and where lay a treasure but he never saw the end of the dream which took him to a gypsy woman who interpreted that the boy should go to Pyramids. At another instance, the boy met the King of Salem who disguised himself as an old man and insisted that the boy should go to the Pyramids and gave him two stones out of his Emerald chest to use as directions of good and evil in difficult situations. The boy pursued his dream and met people who had dreams but held back because they feared the outcome. In the pursuit of his dream, he got financially destitute, cheated, hurt and tested but he continued. The book teaches that in following your dream each element that you work on is a tool to aid in helping you achieve your goal.

The boy travelled to the great desert of Sinai in order to reach Egypt. There he met an alchemist – a man who from his serene spirit believed in the soul of the world. He had the power to convert lead into gold. Coelho metaphors the metal Lead as anything that we hold on to or a point which sustains us and the term gold as anything that is purified by our soul. The gold is referred to an entity which is our destiny and the lead will only convert to gold provided the intentions are earnest. In the guidance of the alchemist the boy seeks inspiration to reach his destiny. The boy learned to listen to his heart and to talk to him. The boy made his heart believe in his destiny so long that the heart started speaking the language of the world. The Language of the world, Coelho says, is the language that only the followers of a destiny understand, the omens that tell us of a prospect happening in the near future either evil or good. The boy learned how everything goes along once a chosen one is set to follow his path.

The book muses about the gems of spirituality which relates to one if he is on the path to his destiny. At one point the alchemist says:

“We do not want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts.” Then he replied: “Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts do not like to suffer.”

 Answering a million dollar question Coelho writes: indeed hearts have to suffer but in exchange they get a life of serenity, courage and the art of relating to one’s own heart. This being life’s sole purpose.

The boy crosses the desert after becoming a perfect disciple of the alchemist and reaches the Pyramids. There he cannot find the treasure that he has come for. There he is told by a man that he is a fanatic for having believed in a recurring dream because he himself had recurrent dreams that the treasure was at the local town church from where the boy belonged. The boy then returned all the way and reached Spain where the man had said that the treasure was buried. On reaching his destiny the boy realized the power of his dream and the pertaining consequences of life.

The book has been translated into 42 languages and more than 20 million copies have been sold. In a pensive attempt, the book at one point unfolds that the alchemist tells the tribe chief that boy knows how to convert himself into wind in exchange for his life whereas the boy does not know in reality how to convert himself into wind. This being a tangent to the reality the boys talks to the wind and the sun and the elements combined create a sand tornado that pulls off the placed camps of the Sinai deserts. At another instant the tribe chief says that Prophet Joseph (sws) was thrown into dungeon because of believing in dreams whereas the reality was otherwise as we have studied in the divine manuscript.

The content of the book is simple yet engaging. A person can relate to it easily if he is pursuing a dream of his own and can validate the presented happenings as enlightenment. It induces a person into believing in himself and motivates him to follow his dream without fearing the outcome because the boy lost when he reached the Pyramid but won at another second which again was told by the language of the world.


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