The Alchemist is a magical tale of a young shepherd boy who gives up everything he has in order to follow his dream. This happens quite literally, as he is inspired to find answers to his questions by simply dreaming the same dream twice; a dream that he would discover treasure at the Pyramids in Egypt. He is encouraged onto his road of discovery by an encounter with a mysterious man claiming to be a king, who is revealed to be a messenger of God. Along his way the boy loses everything more than once, is disheartened and confused, is happy, satisfied – yet is always spurred on to achieving his destiny, sometimes by reading the omens around him, or by heeding the advice of others. Most crucial to his success is the alchemist he meets in the middle of the Sahara desert, who teaches him to listen to his heart, to speak to the desert, and to connect fully with the soul of the world.
This book is an astonishing work which transports the reader to the enchanting surroundings of rural Spain and Moorish Africa. It is told in a very pleasant style, constantly following the boy’s modest and characterful thoughts, revealing how much he learns by simply observing life. A highlight of the novel is the comparison between the boy and an Englishman he meets travelling with a caravan. The man is determined to understand alchemy and the universal language of the world, to learn how to turn lead into gold and create the elixir of life. The man isn’t evil or greedy as we might expect, rather, blinkered in his expectations and demands of the world. The boy’s quest to learn the universal language of the world instead was inspired by his sheep, and by the innumerable interactions which are possible without using speech.
The Alchemist asks the reader to accept and embrace life’s full potential, without making unreasonable demands, or instilling a feeling of inadequacy. The exoticism of the story gives it a sense of a fable, one we can use to guide us, without being set up as an unachievable example. It is not surprising that The Alchemist has reached dizzying heights of fame.