I quoted The Alchemist in my last post “Manifesting the 2017 of Your Dreams,” and I was shocked to realize I hadn’t yet done a book recap/review on this novel! I would be remiss not to share it’s magic with you.
About The Book
Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author who has published many, many books, but The Alchemist, written in 1988, is by far his best seller. It has sold more than 150 million copies and been translated into 80 languages. It has won 115 international prizes/awards, and even won the Guinness World Record for “Most Translated Book by a Living Author!”
This novel tells the story of Santiago, a shepherd boy who has a dream that leads him on a treasure hunting journey. He beings in his hometown of Andalusia (in Spain) and hopes to end up in the Pyramids of Egypt, where he believes his treasure lies. Along the way he meets many colorful characters, including a king, a crystal merchant, an Englishman, a beautiful Arabian woman, and finally, an alchemist, each of whom teaches him important lessons.
Here are some of my favorite concepts from the book:
The king Melchizedek, who Santiago meets at the beginning of his journey, teaches him the concept of “Personal Legend.” He explains that each and every person has a certain purpose, and their life’s work is to fulfill that purpose. As children, we know for certain what our Personal Legends are, but as time goes on, we seem to give up on them. Oftentimes this is due to negative forces that arise and try to knock us off our courses. However, these forces are really there to strength our wills and prepare us for what is to come, and we should not be deterred by them.
This king reassures Santiago that “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it” (Coelho, 22). (This is the quote that I included in my post on manifesting!). He also tells a story about a miner that really resonated with me:
“The miner had abandoned everything to go mining for emeralds. For five years he had been working a certain river, and had examined hundreds of thousands of stones looking for an emerald. The miner was about to give it all up, right at the point when, if he were to examine just one more stone – just one more – he would find his emerald. Since the miner had sacrificed everything to his Personal Legend, the old man [the king] decided to get involved. He transformed himself into a stone that rolled up to the miner’s foot. The miner, with all the anger and frustration of his five fruitless years, picked up the stone and threw it aside. But he had thrown it with such force that it broke the stone it fell upon, and there, embedded in that broken stone, was the most beautiful emerald in the world” (Coelho, 24).
Moral of the story? Don’t give up on your dreams!
Language of the World
Santiago makes his way to Africa by way of Morocco, and while watching people assemble their stalls at the market one day, he realizes that there is this language that all people can communicate in – one that doesn’t depend on words. He describes it as “the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as a part of a search for something believed in and desired” (Coelho, 62).
Santiago eventually begins calling this the Language of the World. He feels it most strongly when he meets Fatima, a beautiful Arabian girl, who he falls in love with at first sight. He believes that this is possible because:
“when you know that language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world” (Coelho, 93).
Eventually Santiago had to leave Fatima to continue on his journey to treasure, but they both knew that if they were meant to be together again, then they would end up together again. And that’s because of the next concept: Maktub.
In Morocco, Santiago worked for a crystal merchant who taught him the word Maktub, which he said would translate to something like, “it is written” (Coelho, 59). Maktub is the idea that there is a divine plan laid out for all of us.
Later on when he is reflecting on this lesson the merchant taught him, Santiago realizes that “intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there” (Coelho, 74).
I love this take on the idea of intuition (or hunches, or gut feelings). I interpret it to mean that the reason we are able to deeply understand certain things that we otherwise wouldn’t know about is because all humans are connected and somewhere deep inside of us lives a vast bank of knowledge acquired by every human that ever lived.
Think about a time when you had a gut instinct (that seemed totally random), but you followed it and it turned out working out in your favor. Why do you think that happened? Was it a coincidence? Or was it Maktub?
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” (Coelho, 11).
“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them” (Coelho, 15).
“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises” (Coelho, 27).
“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had dreamed of when he first made the decision” (Coelho, 68).
“And, when you can’t go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward” (Coelho, 77).
“Everyone has his or her own way of learning things…His was isn’t the same as mine, nor mine his. But we’re both in search of our Personal Legends and I respect him for that” (Coelho, 84).
“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say” (Coelho, 129).