Review: “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.

And so begins this enchanting and quiet tale of a young sheppard named Santiago, who throws himself out onto the world to fulfil his Personal Legend. Everybody has their own Personal Legend and it is the sheer simplicity of Coehlo’s philosophy that makes this idea so accessible and inspirational. Your Personal Legend stems is clear and accessible to you when you are child, where there are no doubts or worries of the world. Can you remember what you wanted to be when you were a child? Do you remember how you could not see why your goal cannot be unachievable? But as you grew up – that one goal that your heart desired – suddenly become so unreachable that you become afraid to try.

The Alchemist follows Santiago, who gives up all his limited possessions, to realise a recurring dream. Always dreaming to see far and distant land, Santiago leaves Spain and searches for the pyramids where he is told there is treasure. To get there, he first must pass through unknown land and cross an endless desert meeting strange characters along the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read and the starkness and simplicity of Coehlo’s writing. Without overdosing on adjectives or character descriptions I got a great sense of who these characters were and I imagined their physical appearances in my head. I’m not a big reader (if at all) in spirituality, self-help or religious books but Coehlo manages to blend all three into this extremely quiet piece. The brilliance here is that it is done in an unassuming way and there is no preaching whatsoever. If this doesn’t sound enticing to you, this book is worth reading for Coehlo’s lovely settings in Spain, the middle East and the great deserts of Egypt.

So – continue to dream because there is a place within the world that awaits you.

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