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Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

The Alchemist

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The Alchemist Description:

My Heart Is Afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.”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.”

Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. The Alchemist is such a book. With over a million and a half copies sold around the world, The Alchemist has already established itself as a modern classic, universally admired. Paulo Coelho’s charming fable, now available in English for the first time, will enchant and inspire an even wider audience of readers for generations to come.

The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist.

The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #316 in Books
  • Published on: 2006-05-01
  • Released on: 2006-04-25
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 208 pages


  • ISBN13: 9780061122415
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.

Customer Reviews:

Flawed But Ultimately Thought-Provoking and Worthwhile4
Yes, much of what negative reviewers of this book have to say is true: the writing is blunt and simple, the characters lack depth and complexity, it is quite male-focused in its subject matter and language, it has a bunch of quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo, and so on. This book should not be put on the list of great literature for the ages. There are doubtless many novels that cover subject matter from this book far more artfully. As I read the book, I was aware of its hokeyness and lack of redeeming literary qualities. I am, in fact, usually the first person to criticize books that read like this.

And yet, I have to say - and I feel a bit sheepish about this - that I found it meaningful, even profound at times. How can I say this, given my criticisms? First of all, unlike many reviewers, I did not approach this book with great expectations. No one told me that this was Shakespeare or Tolstoy; I had never even heard of it until it was recommended to me recently. And by the end of page 2, I had adjusted my expectations further. This clearly was not going to be winning the Booker prize.

But I found the book moving in its simple way. The characters deliver their statements without subtlety, but subtlety is more a literary virtue than a philosophical one. In fact, I essentially came to view this work as a life philosophy expressed as a fable, so I didn’t particularly mind that its messages were not buried far beneath the surface.

Are those messages novel? No, but what of it? Novelists have been recycling themes for centuries, becuase many themes are of enduring interest and relevance. The point is, the messages are worthwhile and deserving of consideration. They are simple, but I think that simplicity is itself one of the central themes of the book: that life is not that complicated when one follows one’s dreams honestly and passionately, or as the book says, “with love and purpose.” And yet the book reminds us that it is very easy to give up dreams and abandon one’s passion.

I have to disagree with one often-mentioned criticism of the book, namely, that it advocates pure materialism. That is, in my opinion, a serious misinterpretation. The book is written in the style of a fable, and therefore the goals people strive for are the typical gold-and-buried-treasure stuff. But I think one would have to misread the book quite severely to think that it is advocating material gain. The book is not at all about the specific goals that the protagonist pursues. It is about the importance of wanting something urgently and how the wanting seems to reorient the universe in harmony with that goal (just as a magnetic field can reorder the particles around it), how genuine passion and enthusiasm are rewarded with success, how those who love us encourage us to pursue our goals, and how the act of reaching for goals - whatever they are, and whether or not ultimately reached - plunges us into a strong current that carries us to places that we can never expect or know when we embark. There is something here in common with the beliefs of the Romantics, in that much of the value of the goal is in the journey that it leads us on — the experiences gained and the lessons learned.

It’s not a fair criticism of the book, I think, to say that it doesn’t tell us what happens when people’s goals conflict with one another, or disclose that circumstances outside of our control often render us unable to reach our goals however sincerely we may pursue them. We don’t need a book to tell us that. Anyone who has made it out of childhood knows that, and I have to believe that the author is well aware of this as well. I suspect that through his simple tale, he is trying to provide some kind of argument against the kind of cynicism or fear that the world can sometimes instill in us, and encourage us to keep diving into that “strong current” to see where it takes us.

A Powerful Parable4
More parable than novel, “The Alchemist” uses the story of young shepherd Santiago’s search for his Personal Legend as an allegory for everyman’s struggle to break from the comfortable confines of conformity and pursue his life dreams. Along the way, of course, our young everyman is beset by all manner of setbacks, testing his resolve and forcing him to become attuned to the Soul of the World in order to survive. By paying attention to the details in the world around him, which serve as omens guiding him towards his goal, young Santiago becomes an alchemist in his own right, spinning unfavorable circumstances into riches.

Aside from the ubiquitous theme about the power of perseverance, my favorite part of the book was its glorification of simplicity. Like the pared-down manner in which the story is presented, Santiago’s rare ability to get in touch with the Soul of the World comes not from the procedures described in arcane tomes pursued by traditional alchemists, but rather from a simple honesty and observance of the workings of the world. While the lack of character or plot complexity precludes this minimalist work from being considered a great novel, it will be a satisfying read for those seeking inspiration of the purest sort.

-Kevin Joseph, author of “The Champion Maker”

The Beauty is in the Simplicity5
When I thought about reviewing this book, I had many things to say…but after reading some of the other reviews which pick apart and criticize it, I can see the meaning of the book even more clearly.
The writing is simple and clear- not juvenile. It’s entertaining and brings a message which does not need to be complicated, except for those who are not ready to see the truth. They are the ones who like their truth heavily veiled and masked, as their self-gratification is in the pursuit. The reality is, the only place you need to look for the truth is in yourself. There is no search required- just your own personal journey.
Life does not need to be complicated, and the folks who have made negative comments about those who enjoy this book have obviously missed the point of it entirely- and they bring to mind the phrase “Casting Pearls before Swine.”
You are not going to get anything valuable from this book unless you are READY for the spiritual knowledge which it contains. And that is one of the main points of the book anyway.
Personally, I received deep spiritual messages and peace from reading The Alchemist- and I have been on my own spiritual path for over two decades. This book presents information that only those who have actually paid attention to their journey would understand and appreciate.
If you read it and don’t like it, I suggest you forget about it for at least 5 years and pick it up again. You might be surprised.
Update, 10/2003:Oh. My. Gosh. I can’t believe how many people just “don’t get” this book!!! Look: the point is not about anyone’s “Personal Legend”!!!
THE POINT, is that what you search for is usually RIGHT THERE all along, and that the journey you take to find it is about learning lessons and growing as a person. Get it yet? LIFE IS IN THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION!!
Santiago set off to find his “pot of gold,” and after a long journey during which he grew mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, he finally discovers the location of the treasure. He follows the directions and find it RIGHT WHERE HE STARTED!
GET IT?!!!
You have what you need inside of you all of the time. You don’t need to search outside yourself- you need to look within. THAT is the point.
Sheesh. Review
Like the one-time bestseller Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Alchemist presents a simple fable, based on simple truths and places it in a highly unique situation. And though we may sniff a bestselling formula, it is certainly not a new one: even the ancient tribal storytellers knew that this is the most successful method of entertaining an audience while slipping in a lesson or two. Brazilian storyteller Paulo Coehlo introduces Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. And so he’s off: leaving Spain to literally follow his dream.

Along the way he meets many spiritual messengers, who come in unassuming forms such as a camel driver and a well-read Englishman. In one of the Englishman’s books, Santiago first learns about the alchemists–men who believed that if a metal were heated for many years, it would free itself of all its individual properties, and what was left would be the “Soul of the World.” Of course he does eventually meet an alchemist, and the ensuing student-teacher relationship clarifies much of the boy’s misguided agenda, while also emboldening him to stay true to his dreams. “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy confides to the alchemist one night as they look up at a moonless night.

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself,” the alchemist replies. “And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” –Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly
This inspirational fable by Brazilian author and translator Coelho has been a runaway bestseller throughout Latin America and seems poised to achieve the same prominence here. The charming tale of Santiago, a shepherd boy, who dreams of seeing the world, is compelling in its own right, but gains resonance through the many lessons Santiago learns during his adventures. He journeys from Spain to Morocco in search of worldly success, and eventually to Egypt, where a fateful encounter with an alchemist brings him at last to self-understanding and spiritual enlightenment. The story has the comic charm, dramatic tension and psychological intensity of a fairy tale, but it’s full of specific wisdom as well, about becoming self-empowered, overcoming depression, and believing in dreams. The cumulative effect is like hearing a wonderful bedtime story from an inspirational psychiatrist. Comparisons to The Little Prince are appropriate; this is a sweetly exotic tale for young and old alike. 50,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal
YA– This simple, yet eloquent parable celebrates the richness of the human spirit. A young Spanish shepherd seeking his destiny travels to Egypt where he learns many lessons, particularly from a wise old alchemist. The real alchemy here, however, is the transmuting of youthful idealism into mature wisdom. The blending of conventional ideas with an exotic setting makes old truths seem new again. This shepherd takes the advice Hamlet did not heed, learning to trust his heart and commune with it as a treasured friend. Enjoyable and easy to read, this timeless fantasy validates the aspirations and dreams of youth.
- Sabrina Fraunfelter, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.