So it seems like I’m starting the year off with some rather thought-provoking books. First it was “The Little Prince”, today I’ve just finished reading “The Alchemist”, and next in line is Anh Do’s “The Happiest Refugee” (which I picked up at the Lifeline Bookfest for a bargain price!)
“The Alchemist” (by Paulo Coelho) was lent to me by the same friend who lent me “The Little Prince”. One of the review excerpts on the back cover said that the former is “as memorable and meaningful” as the latter, so I was expecting some good things from this. I did previously want to read “The Alchemist” anyway, but I suppose it just got lost amongst all the other books on my “to read” list…
However, before I proceed with this review, I must admit that I feel like my opinion of the book has been biased by how much my good friend likes the book so, although I don’t tend to be very harsh in my criticism anyway, I probably have a more positive opinion of the novel than I would if I’d just picked it up myself.
Nevertheless, I did find “The Alchemist” to be quite philosophical and thought-provoking, and there is a kind of poetic and enchanting quality about the story (even though it is a translated text, and I have this belief that it’s hard for translated texts to do justice to the original because each language has its own subtleties and nuances).
The novel talks a lot about realising one’s destiny and pursuing one’s “personal legend”. Other recurrent concepts include recognising omens as messages from God, and this word Maktub, which roughly translates to “it is written”. And then, of course, this recurring quote: “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. I almost feel like the book was trying to teach me too many things and making me ask too many questions of myself, but I suppose it’s all part of the journey of (self-) discovery.
I also found it interesting that the first sentence of the book introduces the name of “the boy” as Santiago, but he was always referred to thereafter as “the boy” and never as “Santiago”. Actually, now that I think of it, very few of the characters actually have names. Oh well, as they say, what is in a name…
I suppose “The Alchemist” is similar to “The Little Prince” in terms of the protagonist going on a journey and meeting new people and learning a great deal about the important things in life, but I reckon I like “The Little Prince” more because it just seemed more … relatable. “The Alchemist” was definitely a worthwhile read, though, and is probably something I could re-read.