Bibliophilia: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Title: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
Translated from Portuguese by: Clifford E. Landers (Prologue); Alan R. Clarke
Publisher: HarperTorch (An Imprint of HarperlCollinsPublishers)
Publishing History:
First HarperTorch revised international printing: October 2006
First HarperTorch international printing: December 2002

(Beware! This may contain spoilers!)
Setting
Andalusia in Spain, during the time of the kings. Also in the port town of Tangier in Egypt, the Egypytian desert and the Pyramids.

Synopsis
Santiago is a shepherd who left everything behind in search of a buried treasure in the Pyramids. He meets a king, an Englishman, an alchemist, and the love of his life.

It tells of his journey across the indomitable Egyptian desert, in pursuit of his Personal Legend.

Memorable Quotes
"When someone sees the same people every day...they wind up becoming 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 lead their lives, but none about his or her own."
- Santiago

"It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That's the world's greatest lie."
- Melchizedek, King of Salem

"But when you're talking to people, they say some things that are so strange that you don't know how to continue the conversation."
- Santiago

"Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It's your mission on earth."
- Melchizedek, King of Salem

"To realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation."
- Melchizedek, King of Salem

"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it."
- Melchizedek, King of Salem

"People learn, early in their lives, what is their reason for being. Maybe that's why they give up on it so early too. But that's the way it is."
- Melchizedek, King of Salem

"Treasure is uncovered by the force of flowing water, and it is buried by the same currents."
- Melchizedek, King of Salem

"If you start out by promising what you don't even have yet, you'll lose you desire to work toward getting it."
- Melchizedek, King of Salem

"When each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises."
- Santiago

"And I'm going to hold on to what little I have, because I'm too insignificant to conquer the world."
- Santiago

"People need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want. We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it's our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand."
- The Camel Driver

"You have a mania for simplifying everything."
- The Englishman to Santiago

"It will be just as good a day to die as any."
- The Camel Driver

"Because I don't live in either my past or my future. I'm interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you'll be a happy man... Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we're living right now."
- The Camel Driver

"When you are in love, things make even more sense."
- Santiago

"The secret is here in the present... Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity."
- The Seer

"It's not what enters men's mouths that are evil. It's what comes out of their mouth that is."
- The Alchemist

"One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving."
- Fatima

"If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return."
- The Alchemist

"There is only one way to learn. It's through action."
- The Alchemist

"Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there."
- The Alchemist

"Wherever your heart is, that is where you'll find your treasure."
- The Alchemist

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams."
- The Alchemist

"Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out. indeed, to be a threatening place."
- Santiago's heart

"When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed."
- The Alchemist

"Your eyes show the strength of your soul."
- The Alchemist

"It's not often that money saves a person's life."
- The Alchemist

"When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too."
- Santiago

Conclusions and Recommendations
The Alchemist is one of my most beloved tales. In some respect, it alludes to Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince. Like the latter, it is suffused with fables, magic and dreams.

I can attest to its notion of following one's heart and standing up for one's dreams, that a person's one true obligation in this world is to live out the path that has been laid out for him.

Rereading The Alchemist had reminded me of omens, their importance and their ubiquity. The idea that there exists a true Universal Language - the Language of God - fascinates me. I agree that, at some point in our lives, we are transported to a place where words are no longer necessary; that we experience a dip in the currents of the Soul of the World; that, in the grand scheme of things, All Things are One.

Most importantly, I agree with Coelho's notion of love; that it is a powerful force and can be universally understood. And that those who truly love you will not hold you from your dreams but will be with you on your journey.

This story is recommended for all ages, to those who are on the journey to their Personal Legend and those who are yet to begin. And though its structure is simple and plain, it is a testament that simplicity is, indeed, beauty. And what more can you ask when you have esoteric themes, like recurrent dreams and the ancient art of alchemy, intertwining with the mundane and the ordinary?

The Alchemist does not offer affirmation, nor does it offer courage and assurance, for these can only be found in one's heart. This fantastical tale kindles, and reminds its readers that, sometimes, all we need in order to forge ahead is a little spark.

----

Cheers to the next adventure!

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