In Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist, we meet Santiago, an Andalusian boy and goat-herder, who stops in a town called Tarifa. The last few nights Santiago has had a recurring dream in which a child takes him to the pyramids of Egypt and guides him towards a treasure that awaits him there. Convinced by a gipsy, interpreter of dreams, and Melquisedec, an enigmatic king, our hero decides to sell the herd and says farewell to his old and safe routine, to undertake an odyssey to the pyramids of Egypt and his hidden treasure.
It is nearly impossible not to be surprised by this story. Narrated in the third person, it deals with everything that the young Santiago is learning throughout his adventure. All the characters that he meets contribute something and many, before disappearing from his life forever, leave him with a story, a new moral precept before saying goodbye. Through its short chapters, the author develops a philosophy of life whereby a person at birth has a dream that is at once his mission in life, and his Personal Legend. Most people give up on their dreams by applying common sense at some stage of in their lives. There are even people that prefer to continue dreaming and not making their dreams come true, lest they wake to a reality filled with disappointment, or emptiness. But there are also those who decide to follow their dreams at all costs, and don’t live happily until they achieve it. Santiago is of this sort.
If you read the Alchemist you must be aware that you are not faced with a conventional novel. If it were, one might have difficulty believing how a boy can maintain dialogs at such a deep philosophical level. Paulo Coelho tells a story with the intent of making us reflect.
The pace is that of a fairy tale, which focuses on the issues the author is concerned with, circumventing elaborate descriptions, as details and minutiae can distract the attention of the reader.
I enjoyed this book immensely and although some say that it is not the best of Coelho’s work, I would not hesitate in recommending it. I would also like to emphasize the end, is of the sort that leaves the reader happy.