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The Alchemist: Book summary and reviews of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho X
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
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Book Summary

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

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Media Reviews

"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 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. " - Publishers Weekly.

"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." - School Library Journal.

"The absence of characterization and overall blandness suggest authorship by a committee of self-improvement pundits--a far cry from The Little Prince: that flagship of the genre was a genuine charmer because it clearly derived from a quirky, individual sensibility. Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls." - Kirkus Reviews.

This information about The Alchemist was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Journey of Self-Discovery
"The Alchemist" is a novel written by Paulo Coelho. It follows the journey of a shepherd named Santiago who embarks on a quest to find his Personal Legend, a unique purpose or dream. The book explores themes of destiny, self-discovery, and the pursuit of one's dreams. Coelho's writing is both inspirational and philosophical, encouraging readers to listen to their hearts and follow their passions. While some praise its wisdom and spiritual insights, others find the prose overly simplistic. Overall, "The Alchemist" is a thought-provoking and introspective book that has resonated with many readers seeking meaning in their lives.

Muhammad Sufyan

The Alchemist
Book Club Conversation: "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho

"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho is a philosophical and symbolic novel that has spellbound readers all over the planet with its immortal insight and significant bits of knowledge. This book club conversation intends to investigate the significant subjects, characters, and images inside the story, and to dive into the provocative messages that Coelho passes on.

Subject 1: The Quest for Individual Legends
One of the focal subjects in "The Alchemist" is the quest for one's Very own Legend. Santiago, the hero, leaves on an excursion to find his actual reason throughout everyday life. This subject resounds with perusers as it investigates the widespread longing to track down importance and satisfaction. Through Santiago's preliminaries and experiences, Coelho advises us that following our fantasies requires fortitude, determination, and an immovable faith in ourselves.

Conversation Questions:
1. How does Santiago's travel to find his Own Legend reflect our own journey for reason and satisfaction?
2. What difficulties did Santiago look en route, and what might we at any point gain from his diligence and assurance?

Subject 2: The Language of the Universe
All through the novel, Coelho presents the idea of the "language of the universe" or the "all inclusive language." This thought recommends that there is a more profound degree of correspondence that rises above words and is grasped through signs, signs, and instinct. It urges perusers to focus on the unobtrusive messages and synchronicities throughout everyday life, directing them towards their fates.

Conversation Questions:
1. How does the idea of the "language of the universe" shape Santiago's excursion? Might we at any point apply this plan to our own lives?
2. Do you have faith in signs or signs? Share any private encounters where you felt the universe was directing you.

Subject 3: The Force of Dreams
Dreams assume a huge part in "The Alchemist." Santiago's common long for a secret fortune drives him to set out on his excursion. Coelho investigates the extraordinary force of dreams and how they can act as a directing power in our lives. The novel proposes that fantasies hold significant experiences and can lead us to find our actual selves.

Conversation Questions:
1. How does Santiago's fantasy impact his activities and choices? Have you at any point had a fantasy that significantly influenced your life?
2. As you would see it, what does the novel recommend about the connection among dreams and reality?

Character Investigation: Santiago
Santiago, a youthful shepherd, fills in as the hero of the story. At first satisfied with a straightforward life, he leaves on an excursion to satisfy his Own Legend. All through the novel, Santiago goes through critical self-awareness, acquiring shrewdness and mindfulness. His encounters and experiences shape him into a tough and quick person.

Conversation Questions:
1. How does Santiago's personality advance all through the story? What examples does he realize along his excursion?
2. Do you find Santiago interesting? Which parts of his personality impacted you the most?

Imagery: The Desert, The Pyramids, and The Spirit of the World
"The Alchemist" is wealthy in imagery, welcoming perusers to decipher more profound implications behind different components. The desert addresses both a physical and figurative scene of self-revelation, testing Santiago's responsibility and assurance. The Pyramids represent Santiago's final location and the satisfaction of his Own Legend. The idea of the Spirit of the World proposes an interconnectedness among every living being and the presence of a widespread soul.

Conversation Questions:
1. What representative importance do you find in the desert and the difficulties Santiago faces there?
2. How does the imagery of the Pyramids add to the story's subjects of predetermination and satisfaction?
3. What are your translations of the idea of the Spirit of the World?

Cloggie Downunder

A charming read
The Alchemist is the first novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho and this edition is translated by Alan. R. Clarke. It is the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearning to travel motivates him to take a chance and search for his destiny. Along the way he encounters a Gypsy, a King, a thief, a merchant, an Englishman, a camel driver, the love of his life, a Tribal Chief and of course, the Alchemist. He leaves Spain, travels to Africa, to the Pyramids, earns money and loses it, and learns about much along the way, including the Soul of the World, The Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life. There is lots of profound wisdom contained in this little story: “It’s not what enters men’s mouths that’s evil,” said the Alchemist. “It’s what comes out of their mouths that is.” “You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” “….the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.” Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.” “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” “…when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” A charming read.

Buddy Langton

The Alchemist-simple and inspiring but lacking in power to awe some readers
Before I ever opened this book, I had heard that it was special and different than most other books. So, the first time I picked it up I was surprised by how short it was along with how large the print looked. This was not a Tale of Two Cities, or a War & Peace, but I remembered that it was supposed to be one of those classic books of our time. Excitedly, I jumped into my reading and finished in about three days.

I don’t know if I can agree with the praise Paulo Coelho includes in the introduction he wrote for the novel. He cites how it has been translated into 56 languages and sold more than twenty million copies but does make sure to state that the reason for this success is unknown to him. I had my hopes and doubts going into this short story that was supposedly so good. However, I must admit I was surprised in certain manners and ultimately unimpressed in others.

Coelho founds his entire story on one idea: All individuals are connected to the universe and are called upon to fulfill a mission in life, a “personal legend”. Coehlo teaches that the universe “prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.”

Coelho does a very good job of illustrating how once you realize your “personal mission” and truly want it, “all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” Many dead ends in the story turn out to be just beginnings to a new path. Coelho excels at creating these realistic problems so that the reader feels pulled into these situations and is easily able to ask themselves what they would do in the same situation.

Coelho did lose me near the end of the story as he attempted to expand on the idea of a living, inter-connected universe, trying to show how magic, destiny, and a myriad of other “mythical” themes are real and can assist each person in their quest to find and accomplish their “personal legend”. I believe that there are forces in the world that work in my favor, but as a reader, I have trouble relating the magical experiences of the young shepherd boy to my own life.

Essentially a well written, yet profoundly simple book, The Alchemist seems to be a feel-good book that could become something akin to a Bible for those who feel lost in life, or little more than an easy read for those who already feel they have found their “personal legend”.

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Author Information

Paulo Coelho Author Biography

Xavier Gonzales

Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 1970, after deciding that law school was not for him, he traveled through much of South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe. Returning to Brazil after two years, he began a successful career as a popular songwriter. In 1974, he was imprisoned for a short time by the military dictatorship then ruling in Brazil.

In 1988, Coelho published The Alchemist, which has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 41 languages. He has written more than a dozen novels, including The Pilgrimage and Veronika Decides to Die, both of which are being adapted to film.

Coelho is an outspoken activist for peace and social justice, and also supports the free distribution of his work. He and his wife Christina split their ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Paulo Coelho's Website

Name Pronunciation
Paulo Coelho: POW-loo KWAY-lew

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