This week’s read was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It has to be one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read because of the abundance of underlying messages and the way they were delivered. I read the french edition of this book but inserted some quotes from it in English between sections <3
Set in the south of Spain and Northern Africa, this book follows an Andalusian Shepherd named Santiago. Santiago lives day-by-day, walking with his sheep in search of food and water. But unlike other shepherds, he is educated and spends a lot of his free time reading. That is until a certain dream begins to trouble his sleep a couple times. This dream will become the catalyst to Santiago’s journey that we can follow in this 190 page book. The Alchemist.
“…that at a certain point of 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.”-Paulo Coelho,The Alchemist
About the Author:
Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author (lyricist and novelist) who has written many more books and novels which you can view here on his page.
“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.”-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Is the Alchemist Worth Reading?
This book is beautiful, but it requires the reader to be open-minded to the ideas and messages being put forward by the author. The way you interpret these messages is completely subjective.
One thing I loved when reading this book was the imagery, the way the author describes certain scenes, you forget that you’re reading the book and not living the story!
Another great thing was the simplicity of the story, it’s almost like a bed time story. However, for such a small and simple book, the messages in it and the quality of the writing were immense.
All of the characters Santiago meets on his journey prepare him for the events to come ahead and once you reached the end of the story, the beginning seems so far away. You feel like a part of you has grown with his character as you both learned things along the way.
“Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Is the Alchemist a religious book?
Google had a more lengthy definition of religion but here are two different suggestions for its meaning:
- a particular system of faith and worship
- a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.
This book is set in Spain which is known for its Catholic faith. On the other hand, it is also set in North Africa (Egypt) which mostly follows the Islamic faith.
The book does refer to the beliefs and practices of both of these religions, however, I did not see this book as being heavily religious. It was more of a spiritual and philosophical book, with a strong main message which we could remember all throughout the story.
Therefore, because the book does refer to two religions, their practices and beliefs it would fit under the first bullet point meaning of religion. However, the ‘religion’ Santiago grows into following is entirely his own as only people with faith can accomplish what he has in this book.
Again, the word ‘faith’ often comes with religious connotations but the meaning of faith in this book, for me, was: the complete trust or confidence in someone or something. It may seem confusing if you have not yet read the book, but I will elaborate on this idea in the next section.
If you take the words in this book as they are, it may seem very religious. But if you open your heart and mind to reading in between the lines then no; the Alchemist is not a religious book.
When you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
What is the Main message of The Alchemist?
The main message behind this story is that we are all part of the same Universe and that our hearts connect us to each other in a way man-made languages can not.
The moral of the story is to follow your heart’s instincts in everyday life because your heart speaks the language of the Universe which permeates around and within all of us.
Santiago chose to become a shepherd because he loved the idea of travelling. He would travel within Spain from village to village whilst selling his sheeps’ wool to local merchants.
That is until one dream starts to trouble his sleep for 2 nights in a row. After a couple main events (which I do not want to spoil) occur, Santiago ends up on a journey to North Africa. To Egypt more specifiaclly, which is only 2 hours away by boat.
The start of his journey in Egypt is rough, but Santiago quickly gets back onto his feet.
This is a good representation of the dynamic of this story as it realistically reflects the way we may deal with different challenges. Challenges which may appear in our own personal lives.
Santiago has an agenda, a goal, but like any human he gets discouraged when things seem to go south. He is in a foreign country, by himself in search of something he is not quite sure even exists. But because he has an agenda, he quickly reminds himself why he is doing this.
Often, throughout the book, Santiago pondered on the idea of taking the next boat back to spain. Back to his sheep and the lifestyle he was comfortable with. Thanks to the characters he meets along the way those thoughts remained as they were, thoughts.
“Where your treasure is, there will also be your heart”-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
What were the Main Themes In the Alchemist?
I think the main themes in the Alchemist were: love, faith/ trust and resilience.
A bit of romance is always appreciated 😉 Even though this book does have the theme of love in it, it comes with a life lesson. The author did not focus solely on the relationship, if at all to be honest.
Santiago does meet a woman on his way to the Pyramids as he’s crossing the desert with his companion (which he met earlier in the story.) But once he needs to depart once again, she does not hinder this decision. Instead, she embraces it and encourages him to finish his journey as she understands his need to accomplish what he set out to do.
She told him that if she were truly a part of his dream/ ‘the bigger picture’ he will one day be by her side again.
The author did a great job at demonstrating the different types of feelings/events which could inhibit someone from achieving their goal. Feelings of fear, doubt and most commonly love. Feelings which, in the moment, cloud the bigger picture for a second. A second where those feelings can cloud the goal, determination and motivation one had just moments before. Which in some cases lead to people making impulsive decisions they later regret.
The lesson I took away from this was that life is unexpected and it can throw some unexpected things at you. However, taking the time to re-evaluate your decisions in moments of uncertainty is okay. As long as you listen to your heart and reason with a clear mind. Most importantly, whatever the decision you chose may be, never lie to yourself.
“If you’re brave enough to say ‘goodbye’ life will reward you with a new ‘hello.’ “-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Santiago developed a stronger feeling of trust for the Universe as he began to understand its language through omens, feelings, events and visions. Consequently, he began trusting himself and his heart more. Because his heart was the key to this Universal Language which could only be heard if he listened and trusted.
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting”-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
You would be surprised at the amount of times Santiago lost his money throughout this book! At times he felt like running away from it all and returning to his ‘normal’ life. But what would have happened if he did? How would he have felt barely completing a goal he set himself out to achieve? He would have probably felt like crap. He would have spent everyday with that little feeling of guilt and self-denial weighing on his chest as he once again walked around Spain with his sheep.
How can we allow ourselves to go back to our old ways once we have seen the possibilities of what is beyond our ‘normal?’ This question is probably the reason why lot of people remain in their comfort zones. They mentally and emotionally run away from fear that the goal they’ve set out to achieve will be too difficult to complete. Which is why having trust in yourself and faith in your heart allows you to move forward when you think you have no other reason to.
“And when you can’t go back you have to worry only bout the best way of moving forward.”-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Overall I think the alchemist is a worthy read with many good things to obtain from.
A recent blog post of ours is “Intelligence is beauty and how to nourish it.” In that post we explored an interesting theory that intelligence can be categorised. Taking that into account, I think Santiago developed into an intelligent man in his own right. There are many definitions of intelligence and I think the one that best suits him is ‘intra personal.’
‘Intra-Personal:’ The understanding of yourself, your feelings and what you want.