Goodreads: The Alchemist
Summary: When a young shepherd in Andalusia has a recurring dream about finding treasure at the Great Pyramids, he embarks on a journey to Egypt and the fulfillment of his “Personal Legend.” Along the way he meets a variety of individuals who teach him through word and example about the meaning of human desires and the consequences of choosing to follow or abandon our most cherished dreams.
Review: The Alchemist is a short novel, simple to read. The dialogue is straightforward and the plot is uncomplicated. But, for this reader at least, it is a book that begs to be reread, pondered, and talked about. Not necessarily because it is completely true, but because it prompts the asking of interesting questions.
The protagonist in the story is not named. He is simply, “the boy.” Similarly, other characters include “the merchant,” “the Englishman,” and “the alchemist.” Such names contribute to the book’s allegorical quality. As does the premise. The boy in the book seeks his Personal Legend, the treasure he knows to be waiting for him in Egypt. According to the advice of wise people he meets along the way, the boy’s reason for being is finding that treasure, and therefore all of the universe will help him get there. Of course, he himself must be consistently courageous and wise for his journey to be a success. Though a quest for gold and jewels on the surface seems a rather insignificant meaning for being, the book suggests that the journey itself and the lessons the boy learns along the way are as much a part of his Personal Legend as is the actual end of his journey. Furthermore, it challenges readers to consider what their own reasons for being might be, and pushes them to consider how much the world might actually work in their favor if they sincerely attempt to live their purpose.
The book also raises interesting questions about spirituality and truth. For example, the boy learns that everyone and everything on Earth has a shared language, which can be learned by those willing to listen. That language is tied to every created thing’s oneness with God. Furthermore, the boy learns that all the truth of the world can be learned through observation of either the desert or a single piece of sand. The reader is left questioning if all God’s truth is woven into each part of creation, and how each person’s specific purpose is part of the grand scheme of the oneness of the world.
In short, the book is a simple story that prompts the consideration of timeless, universal questions. It is well worth the time it takes to read it.
Published: 1988 Portuguese; 1993 English