Monday, 15 November 2010

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your DreamSantiago is a young shepherd boy who continually dreams that he is destined to find a treasure near the Egyptian pyramids. As he travels with his sheep, he thinks about the soul and the language of the world. He believes if he listens long enough to the world, it will tell him how to reach his own destiny.

During his travels, he realizes that it would be easy to give up and settle for something comfortable like many people do. They ignore what the world is telling them because conventionality and society tells them they should do the sensible thing and settle down to a modest job with a modest income and start a family. The boy believes that they lose their meaning in life by doing to and that only the possibility of fulfilling a dream and following that dream gives life a purpose. Several times he is tempted to give in and compromise, especially when he finds his true love in the desert, but something always comes along to spur him on in his travels. Thus he comes to believe that the entire universe is there to help anyone who undertakes the journey along to find his dream and that only people themselves stand in their own way.

This was a quick, neat little read. I enjoyed the book, but found that it didn’t really live up to its reputation. Again it’s one of those I suppose would be better from a younger person’s perspective, but for me it didn’t offer much in the way of new or uncharted territory. The entire time I was reading it, I was reminded of Siddartha by Hermann Hesse. Despite the novel’s differences, they are both about the journey to oneself and learning the meaning of life. Their conclusions serve to show that there really is no universal meaning of life, but that each person must decide for himself if he wants to seek knowledge of the world or not and that the answer may be different for each person. Santiago’s journey does, however, lead him to believe that the world is all one and that it’s cohesive is love. This knowledge became his greatest treasure.