31-10-2016, 10:57 PM
The Alchemist is a relatively short novel following an Andalusian shepherd named Santiago. After a recurring dream of a promise of treasure to be found in Egypt, he embarks on a series of encounters through which he learns of his Personal Legend, and goes about achieving this.
All people in the world of The Alchemist are granted a Personal Legend by The Soul Of The World, and by identifying and achieving this destiny, one achieves happiness and fulfilment.
After first reading the novel, I found it saccharine and naive. Ostensibly, the philosophy (and a quote of the eponymous alchemist) is that "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe will conspire so that your wish comes true". However, looking back, an alternative interpretation of the story seems just as appropriate.
The book gives us a vision of our world where our most ardent and noble desire interacts with the very Soul of the World, and becomes manifest when we truly devote ourselves to its fulfilment. Throughout the story Santiago is deceived and attacked, yet is rescued from death or poverty by either arbitrary consequence or mystical characters. Through his trials he can achieve his destiny.
It is clear that the world that Santiago exists in is a fantasy. It almost implies that our world, deplete of alchemy, prophetic dreams and magic dice, cannot provide Personal Legends, and that our World cannot have a Soul. The story becomes for profound as the beautiful fantasy of a child shepherd, a dream that would almost inevitably end in tragedy. The explicit inclusion of magic is what transforms this tale from fable to lamentation.
Taking this into account, I recommend reading it. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.