It was only yesterday that I finished The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho for the third time, and I think it is the right time to discuss what I feel about it. There are certain books which need no introduction, as almost each and every one of those who like to read novels have heard about the book. After all, till about three years ago, they had sold a whopping 65 million copies of this book!
Let me break down my admiration for this book brick by brick.
Summary of The Alchemist
The Alchemist is a story about Santiago, the boy, a young shepherd from Andalusia, the Southern autonomous province of Spain. The shepherd, in his dream, witnesses a prophecy about a treasure near the faraway pyramids of Egypt. At first, he discards it as just another, but the dream appears multiple times.
The boy meets a gypsy from a nearby village and discusses his dream with her. The gypsy tells the boy that destiny will surely present him with the treasure if he follows the path. Lost in his thoughts, the boy crosses the path with an old man, claiming to be the King of Salem. The King asks the boy to set on a journey to explore and achieve his legend. The old man asks the boy to sell his flock of sheep and depart for Egypt as soon as possible.
The boy agrees, and soon, lands on the Egyptian shores, and then begins his true journey. He is robbed, he is rendered homeless, and his journey is filled with many obstacles. However, the boy continues to fight and doesn’t lose hope even for a moment.
Poetic Narration by Paulo Coelho
Apart from the central story, what draws you is the poetic narration by the master, Paulo Coelho. Just to present an analogy, the story mentions the boy’s name only once, and that too, in the first sentence of the first chapter! Throughout the book, Santiago is referred to as the boy, and that’s where the magic happens. Anyone who reads the book can directly connect with the protagonist, and experience one’s self-acting in the boy’s shoes.
The magic of narration continues throughout the book, and Coelho never lets you put down the book out of boredom even for a moment. The simplistic elegance of the narration makes it accessible even for an inexperienced audience, while the underlying message of the story keeps a more mature audience excited.
In also the books I have ever read, The Alchemist is probably the only book that I could relate to inadvertently. And I promise I am not an exception! A huge number of people who read the book will feel somewhat the same. That’s the kind of magic in Coelho’s writing.
The Message that Motivates Millions
‘When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ These are the lines that motivate the boy, and probably millions like throughout God’s green earth.
The book can be more like a self-help guide on how to live your dream. The positivity that Coelho breathes into the boy even during the worst of times is fascinating. It left me in awe. And then, I asked myself a question, which bothers, well, almost everyone, I guess – what if I fail? The fear of failure stops us from achieving what we dream. Most of us don’t even try following our passions, or our dreams, simply because we have too much to lose. It is exactly here that The Alchemist helped me. It made me ask myself another question – Do I have too much to lose? And the answer is no.
We all dream, and no matter how much we suppress it, it never fails to reappear in one way or the other. Those who follow it, succeed, or fail, but those who don’t definitely fail. Now here’s the other important question that I asked myself after reading the book – What is failure? And the book answered – not trying is a failure. And it really is.
Hardship vs Comfort – Reality vs Myth
Hardship is a milestone in the journey of every successful individual who followed his dream. What separates these great human beings from the rest is that they’re never afraid of hardships. While a painter running from gallery to gallery begging them to display his masterpiece is a hardship, so is sitting at a desk in front of a screen, following orders, travelling in the same local train each day, and meeting the same kind of people for your entire life.
The difference is that the painter dashed towards hardship, tackled it, and killed it. While the ones running away from them ultimately get caught and pinned down by it. It’s better to die fighting than being a prisoner, isn’t it? Paulo Coelho wants people to be fighters, not prisoners. And he conveys his message in a phenomenal way!
Noman Shaikh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bombay Reads. He grew up in Mumbai, a city he loves more than any other, and currently works as a content consultant. His expertise lies in creating high-quality academic and marketing content in the form of blogs, articles, op-eds, etc. Noman has worked with reputed brands, including Economic Times (through Spiral Media), Coinbase (through MattsenKumar), AdEngage, Della Group, GBIM Technologies, VAP Group, etc. For his published portfolio, click here. Contact Noman on noman@bombayreads for engagement.