Paul Coelho’s modern fable is something of a wonder to me. It evokes so much of the epic literatures of eras long since passed that when I first saw it in its 10th anniversary packaging I was confused: having seen it before and thinking it was much older than that.
And upon reading it, there’s no reason to believe differently. The tale Coelho weaves here is as timeless as storytelling itself. A book review over at Nabou.com caught me attention as it stated:
“The Alchemist, is an exciting novel that bursts with optimism; it is the kind of novel that tells you that everything is possible as long as you really want it to happen. That may sound like an oversimplified version of new-age philosophy and mysticism, but as Coelho states ‘simple things are the most valuable and only wise people appreciate them’.”
The novel is the tale of the young Santiago who sets out on a quest from his home to see the world. His father tells him before he leaves, “Go until you see that our castle is the greatest. That our women are the most beautiful.” Santiago goes and his quest is not of finding something physical or extraordinary, but rather to find that the journey was the reward all along. The simplicity of it is what captures the minds of so many readers, regardless of their age or perspective.
This novel is just that; a statement of simplicity and the most basic aspects of human existence that can make each of us equally happy if only we take the time to stop and look at them for what they are. The young boy, whose quest takes him across continents to find the Alchemist, is seeking himself and a cause for that self. He doesn’t set outstanding goals nor does he expect more of himself than any one person should.
The symbol ridden, myth infused journey is a statement of personal wealth and the journey to follow one’s dreams but to find in them the meaning of one’s existence, their own personal God, the seed deep within that makes life a cause worthy of living. The mysticism of it a mask through which we view all spiritual journeys, bogged down by the weight of such an endeavor. We film them over with symbols and images, dreams, and magics, but underneath it all is the same ideal, the same desire. And Coelho taps that desire, such that no matter the language translated into or from or the subject of his fable the message reaches out and touches the audience.
This book is one that everyone should read because it does everything that a fable should, and through Coelho’s magical touch, so much more. Young Santiago is a scion for the journey we all undergo at some time or another in our lives, yet he manages to finish his journey, not getting waylaid by the realities of our quotidian lives. A favorite of mine for sure.