“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary”
Sometimes you don’t know you’re looking for something until you find it. This was how I felt after reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I initially rejected the recommendation of this book after reading a couple pages and not connecting with it, but I eventually decided to give it another chance when my mother persisted. I figured if Macklemore raps about it, Bill Clinton read it and Madonna raves about it, it must be something special.
The book was originally written in Portuguese and has won a Guinness record for being the most translated book in history. It’s no wonder then that the story didn’t flow as easily as I would have liked it to in English. I also always find books written in the third person a little impersonal and harder to follow, but the inspirational lessons in the book far outweigh my initial negative perceptions of its narrative shape. It’s a symbolic narrative more than a flowing fictional story and in its simplicity, is extraordinary.
The Alchemist is filled with short romantic sentences and eloquent phrases that will make you think and reconsider the way you go about your life; they’ll teach you lessons you didn’t know you needed to learn. The story follows shepherd boy Santiago on his journey across the desert from Spain to Egypt in pursuit of a treasure he dreamed about. Through the boy’s journey, we learn about old traditions and different religious beliefs while simultaneously touching on very advanced scientific ways of thinking. It’s about mysticism, dealing with change, and learning to love throughout life’s journeys.
In trying to find his fortune, Santiago had to lose himself and redefine himself and his mission all over again. As we travel across the continent with the boy, we meet a king and a gypsy, an alchemist, and a new love. Along the way, Santiago’s ventures teach us “that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself” and that “the darkest hours of the night come just before the dawn.”
Perhaps my favourite thought from the book, however, is that “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” I think it perfectly sums up Coehlo’s view of optimism and mysticism that he teaches throughout the book. In an interview with Coehlo, he said this; “to die alive is to take risks. To pay your price. To do something that scares you but that you should do because you may or may not like it.” I think that’s exactly what Santiago did – he took risks.
The Alchemist is nothing short of philosophical, teaching us to acknowledge the way we share the world with others and to look for the treasures we seek, right in front of us. It’s a book about adventures, life’s journeys and The Soul of the World – if you don’t know what that is, I’d suggest you give the book a read.