Book review: Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist (With Spoilers)
“If a person is living out his Personal Legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
I have a strange feeling after reading Paulo Coelho´s “Master Work” (he uses this expression many times in the book). When I started reading it, it had the impression on me that I am facing a fictitious fairy-tale kind of book. I asked myself shortly after: How is this tale going to help me find my own life-purpose? After reading the book, the answer seems easy. The reader realizes while reading that many aspects of Santiago´s life and journey can be found in their own life stories.
In this short book review, I will briefly sum up the story of the book. After that, short paragraphs and meaningful messages will come to reflect my personal favorite parts of the book. At the end, a conclusion will be given, which determines whether the book is worth reading or not.
The story is about a shepherd named Santiago, who wonders if life has more meaning, and after meeting an old wise king, he decides to listen to his dream, which came up already twice in his sleep (once while sleeping in a weird-looking church). The dream promised him a treasure, which he would find near the Pyramids in Egypt. He decides to follow his mysterious dream and the old wise king´s advice. After selling his sheep, he travels to Tarifa, a port city on the extreme southern tip of Spain, where all of his money gets stolen by a thief. To keep himself alive, he starts making a living selling crystals for a merchant.
After earning enough, Santiago is very close to going back to Spain and become a shepherd again, but instead, he decides to pursue his dream, his “Personal Legend”, and joins a caravan. This caravan´s destination was Egypt. The journey gets interrupted by a war between the clans in the desert, so the caravan gets forced to stay in an oasis, where Santiago meets the love of his life, Fatima. In this oasis a wise alchemist is living, who is eager to help Santiago reach his goal and promises to guide him through the rest of the desert to the Pyramids. Santiago promises Fatima that he would come back for her after his journey and makes his way to the Pyramids with the alchemist.
When the two companions almost reach the Pyramids, the alchemist leaves the boy alone and heads back home. A mysterious voice in Santiago´s head tells him that he will find his treasure where he starts dropping his tears. When the boy reaches the top of a mountain and looks at the Pyramids at the first time, he starts crying. At that exact place, he starts digging in a hope of finding his treasure. Some refugees of the war arrive, who rob and beat Santiago, but before they leave, their leader says the following words to the boy: “You were stupid to follow your dream. I had a dream once, that I would find treasure in a weird church in Spain, but I am not as stupid as you to cross the desert for that”. There and then, Santiago realizes he found his treasure, because he knows which church the leader of this group meant. The story ends with Santiago finding a lot of Spanish gold and other valuables in a hidden place of the church where his story began.
• “When someone sees the same people every day, as had happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person´s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn´t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should live their lives, but none about his or her own.” (Santiago´s thoughts) (P. 15f)
• “Tell your heart that your fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. 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.” (the alchemist to Santiago) (P. 130)
• “But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them – the path of their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.” (the alchemist to Santiago) (P. 131)
• “If a person is living out his Personal Legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” (the alchemist to Santiago) (P. 141)
• “That´s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” (the alchemist to Santiago) (P. 150)
Is it worth reading? The answer is a clear yes. Sometimes we need to think about where we are heading in our lives. What are our goals? What are we striving to achieve? Is it all worth the struggle? Would we really appreciate the goals we achieved if it were easy to do so? To value every goal, we must walk through a hard path to say “yes, I did it” with pride. In my opinion, everybody needs to read this book once in their life. It will make you wonder what your real “Personal Legend” might be.