I read a review on this book somewhere and put it on my “To Read” list. I didn’t realize that it had been an international best seller and that Coelho is probably the most read Latin American author after Gabriela Garcia Marquez. Latin American authors often have this very interesting surreal feel about their books.
The book opens with a young shepherd in Andalusia, Spain, herding his sheep and reading a book. I immediately knew I would like this character. He has two recurring dreams that he will travel to the Great Pyramids of Egypt and find his treasure. He sets off on a quest where the greatest treasure is self discovery — really learning to listen to his heart and recognizing the Great World Soul in everything. Along the way, he meets the gypsy fortune teller, an old man who says he is the King of Salem, a crystal merchant, an Englishman, an alchemist, a beautiful girl of the desert who captures his heart, and many others. While his quest has a goal, the journey is everything.
Each page seems to have a nugget I would like to copy down or remember. “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times” (p. vii).
“Everything on earth is continually being transformed, because the earth is alive…and it has a soul. we are part of that soul, so we rarely recognize that it is working for us” (p. 79). To me this book was a lovely poem, a more sophisticated version of The Little Prince.
Coelho, Paulo. (1998). The Alchemist. Harper Collins Publishers, ISBN13-978-0-06-112241-5, $13.95. 167 pages plus additional interviews with the author and discussion questions. The first hardback edition came out in 1993.