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Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a modern fable about seeking one’s own destiny in this world written by God and kept stored in the Soul of the World. The protagonist of the book is Santiago, a young boy who lives in Andalusia somewhere in Spain. His parents wanted him to be a priest but he has chosen to be a shepherd so that he can travel to the far off places and see the world. With a flock of sheep, he roams in the regions of Spain and when the time comes, that is once in a year, he sells off the wool of the sheep to the merchants of the city.


He has learnt a lot from his sheep cattle. While sleeping in a ruined church under a Sycamore tree, one night he dreams about a treasure hidden in the pyramids of Egypt. To find out the treasure to lead a comfortable life becomes his personal legend. But he is yet to realize that personal legend. On the contrary, he does not know how to proceed, since he cannot believe a dream until he tests its veracity. Thus, in Tariffa he sees a gypsy woman who confirms that his dream is recurrent and prophetic in nature. She doesn’t ask for the fee but rather demands the one tenth of the treasure. The boy agrees and thinks of going to Egypt.

In the marketplace an Arab old man catches him reading a book. He introduces himself as Melchizedek, the King of Salem. The boy does not believe him. However, when the boy reveals about his treasure dream, the old man teaches him the principle of personal legend. According to him when a person wishes to achieve something, the whole universe conspires to work for him. The old man explains him about the beginner’s luck and says that the boy is favorably getting the beginner’s luck. The boy realizes that his life’s aim is to seek his destiny by going into ‘The Soul of the World’, where every person’s share has been kept reserved.

The boy sells off his sheep to collect money for further journey to the pyramids of the Egypt. The old man gifts him some money and two crystal stones Urim and Thummim for omen signals. A destiny seeker must know how to catch the omens in order to move ahead. Here onwards, the boy moves in a boat to Tangerie, in North Africa. There no one speaks Spanish and he is robbed off on the very first day. Being money less in a new city, he thinks of going back to Spain but even for that he needs money. For money, he works in a crystal ware shop for eleven months and saves enough money to buy a new flock of sheep and a return ticket to his hometown. But he prefers going to Egypt in a caravan. In the caravan he meets an Englishman who is going to the oasis of Al-Fauyom to see an alchemist who has the philosopher’s stone and he is capable of providing elixir and turning anything into gold.

The caravan is bound for Egypt but halts at an oasis due to warring tribes of the desert. There the boy happens to meet an Arab girl Fatima. They both fall in love. Next the alchemist takes the boy with him for further journey. They face a few midway obstructions but the alchemist always comes up with a solution. The alchemist stops at the Coptic monastery and from there the boy travels alone to the pyramids. When he is digging up the soil in the hope of finding treasure, he is beaten up by a gang of robbers and they take away his gold given by the alchemist. When the boy reveals about the treasure, one of the robbers laugh at him and tells about the similar dream and a hidden treasure somewhere in a ruined church in Spain. Then the boy comes back to the same church in Spain where he had dreamed about the treasure one night. In the day he digs and finds the treasure.

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  1. This is my favourite book. Thanks for the review.

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