The Alchemist is the book which got digested into my mind and soul, and became the part and parcel, Alpha and Omega of my life. It is a feast to my reason and fantasy. Its spontaneity and profundity helped me towards self-realization and self-actualization.
This magical and voraciously-read international bestseller has had a life-enchanting effect on millions of people including me. This spell-casting little volume is written by a Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho who is the most beloved writer of the world because of ‘The Alchemist’. Though his fourth, this is the first book that realized his dream of being the most influential writer of the world which he had in his head for forty years.
This book was first published in 1988 but remained quite underrated because of its novel idea. But, later on, it turned the tables with the sale of over 65 million copies worldwide. Since then, it has won 115 international prizes and awards, and has been translated into at least 80 languages and is still on the New York Times bestselling list. Paulo Coelho was designated as a UN Messenger of Peace in 2007 by the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, because of this book.
This book put feathers in my cap also by transforming me from a lazy dreamer to a proactive visionary and a competitor who passed the most competitive and the most prestigious examination of Pakistan, i.e. CSS, at the age of 21, in the very first attempt.
“It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting’ (Page 11 ‘The Alchemist’)
‘Dream is the language of God when he speaks in our language’ (Page 12)
It is not only important to dream big but it’s also very important to be proactive to realize that dreams as the palm reader says to Santiago, “I only interpret dreams. I don’t know how to turn them into reality. That’s why I have to live what my daughter provides me with.” (Page 15)
‘Secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drop of oil on the spoon.’ (Page 32)
The story of the novel is about the journey of a shepherd boy to the pyramids of Egypt, after having a recurring dream of finding treasure. On his journey, Santiago learns about the universal language, omens and Personal Legend, and these three are the main themes of the book.
Since Paulo Coelho is himself a religious and spiritual person, this book has a religious hue in it. Paulo Coelho said in an interview that this book is mostly read in the Muslim World; especially among the Persian Muslims.
‘It’s true that everything has its Personal Legend, but one day that Personal Legend will be realized. So each thing has to transform itself into something better, and to acquire new Personal Legend, until, someday, the Soul of the World becomes one thing only.’ (Page 150)
Paulo Coelho believes that every person has a Personal Legend contrary to the fact that every person is going to fulfil his or her Personal Legend or not.
First of all, what is a Personal Legend? The book follows the shepherd boy Santiago who experiences this recurring dream and starts on a journey to realize his Personal Legend. In simple words, it is the reason which motivates. It is the Personal Calling; the reason you are here in this life. You are here to honour something called the miracle of life; you are not here to fulfil your hours and your days with something meaningless. But it is you who should know that you have a reason to be here and it’s the only thing which gives you energy and motivation. You betray your Personal Legend when you do something half-heartedly or without zeal and zest.
‘You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. if he abandons that pursuit, it’s because it wasn’t true love…… the love that speaks the language of the world.’ (Page 120)
The success story of ‘The Alchemist’ is the achievement of the Personal Legend of Paulo Coelho himself.
The Universal Language
‘When you want something all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.’ (Page 62)
‘When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help the person to realize his dream.’ (Page 114)
‘In alchemy, it’s called the Soul of the world. When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the soul of the world. It’s always a positive force.’ (Page 78)
I think the universe actually conspired and helped me to share my experience and perception of reading The Alchemist with the readers of World Times. It’s my personal experience that whenever I want something with all my heart, I always get it.
According to Paulo Coelho, the universe does not think really, it’s you who with a conscious mind attract good and bad energy and then it can manifest it into your life. Sometimes, the universe attracts tragedy from our conscious mind when we want to be a victim, and being a victim is to justify a lot of frustration and failures in our life; The universe is helping you to be a victim and universe is helping you to be a winner, based on how you think.
The Omens or the signs are everywhere all the time in our life. In the novel, the hawks in the sky, the flow in the air and the sheep are all symbolic and we understand the symbols when we pay attention to the universal language. We can associate ourselves with the symbols and emblems of ‘The Alchemist’. We all can identify ourselves with the protagonist of the novel ‘Santiago’ the shepherd boy.
The notion of Oneness, the idea that all living things are related with the universe—alchemy itself introduces to turn base metals into gold—it’s about the evolution of things and harmony with nature, it’s not just a magic act but a way of living and being in the world. Then, there is a universal language which unites all living things; understanding all this we get to know how character transformation of Santiago occurs from a curious boy to a dreamer, a universal communicator and then a hero. Sheep themselves are symbolic, they are Santiago’s flock which allows him to travel and learn. Sheep are content with simply by given food but Santiago yearns for more. Sheep are representative of the people who live their lives without ever achieving anything or even starting on a journey of Personal Legend. All living things, omens and elements themselves are working together to evolve the powerful goal of life. ‘The Alchemist’ is a metaphorical and mystical epic; it’s an allegory for the journey of life. It is full of growth, development, destiny and treasure.
People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or they’ll be unable to achieve them… tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered which goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second encounter with God and with eternity Page 130)