Hi, friends. Today’s modern classic relates to achieving our dreams. It blends religious themes with a story of a grand journey.
The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
The Alchemist describes a journey that’s as symbolic as literal for a young shepherd named Santiago. Santiago loves his flock, but he is plagued by recurring dreams of a treasure at the Egyptian Pyramids. He meets a mysterious king in his home country, Spain, who seems to know him already. The king encourages Santiago to pursue his “Personal Legacy” and gives him advice on following omens. Santiago sells his flock and travels to Egypt. I won’t spoil all the trials and triumphs he undergoes, but after a a few years, Santiago meets *the alchemist*. Alchemists use heat to turn metal into gold. The alchemist builds on the old king’s guidance; the alchemist relates omens to nature and teaches Santiago to *listen to the desert*. By the end, he must face a nearly impossible challenge to find his treasure where he least expected it.
The story is highly symbolic in that most instances represent broader ideas–for example, Santiago selling his flock to follow his dreams, being reduced to the lowest point, working his way back up, then almost giving up on his dream reflects how people can get so discouraged by failure that they stop trying. The book is spiritual, and though many references are vague enough to relate to different faiths, I did notice some elements from the Bible. Definitely not a Christian book, though. It’s short enough to read in an afternoon.
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.
It is said that all people who are happy have God within them.
Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.
People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.
I have inside me the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the stars, and everything created in the universe. We were all made by the same hand, and we have the same soul.
Maktub. (It is written.)
Coelho, who is from Brazil, wrote the novel in just two weeks; he says the book was “already written in his soul.”
The first English translation (from Portuguese) was published in 1993, and the book soon became a widely translated international bestseller.
The novel has successfully been adapted for theatrical production; there’s also a graphic novel version.
Thanks for reading! Are you a fan of spiritual tales? On the one hand, the broadness of The Alchemist‘s spirituality makes it relatable to more people, but as a Christian, I could imagine other Christians (and members of certain other religions) objecting to much of the Naturalist language.