“The Alchemist”: The World’s Longest Proverb

I’ve heard many things about “The Alchemist” prior to reading it. The hit Paulo Coelho novel has been hailed as an inspiring read by many who’ve laid their eyes on its pages before mine. It’s with that that I let curiosity lead its natural way and purchased it off the Kindle store and read it in its entirety on my phone.

Originally published in 1988 in Coelho’s native Portuguese and translated into English in 1993, “The Alchemist” follows a shepherd boy as he leaves his Spanish community to travel to the pyramids in Egypt, in search of treasure. It’s a hero’s journey in the making as he encounters a king, a Gypsy, a crystal merchant, a just as ambitious Englishman, and an alchemist; all of whom aid him to some capacity or another during his travels. He learns about omens and listening to them, and also about the value about following one’s Personal Legend.

“The Alchemist” is a short and simply-written novel. Almost anyone can pick it up and not have to fight through crazy vocabulary or anything like that. Stylistically, perhaps it was a way of Coelho saying that the answer regarding one’s Personal Legend is relatively simple: Just do it. Whether one is willing to face the challenges on the journey is something left in their decision.

At the same time, the approach to how “The Alchemist” was written though also is what threw me off a bit. Almost none of the characters have their names mentioned. You learn the shepherd’s name in the beginning, but is never used again beyond that point. Why Coelho decided to do that is beyond me. Perhaps it was a way of manifesting a mirror to the reader, in order to see him or herself in the protagonist and fill in the other characters with people from their own lives. Regardless of the reason though, it was because of the lack of names for a majority of the characters, combined with the book’s overall simple writing, is what led to my opinion of “The Alchemist” being like an incredibly long proverb.

Overall though, I must say that I see now why so many people like this novel. It delivers a message of how one should pursue their own Personal Legend- their dreams, goals, and ambitions one has set for themselves- and how to welcome any wisdom or help along the way. This message is likely just as manifesting to my generation today, when many of us struggle to realize or even bother pursuing our own Personal Legends; especially when we’re bred with a message nowadays that if we don’t succeed at our goals, we’re failures. But at the end of the day, that’s not what it’s about. Even the shepherd boy had some setbacks before coming to realization of the purpose of his journey.

To follow one’s Personal Legend is to go at it, no matter what it takes. If it involves some setbacks and failures along the way, don’t let that defy the outcome of the journey.  I thought that was an incredibly strong message “The Alchemist” delivered, which is why I now join the masses of other readers who consider it worthy of checking out.


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