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Book Review - The Alchemist

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation,” the old man tells Santiago. This review contains small spoilers of the plot but is a discussion focused on the concept of realizing one’s Personal Legend as life’s purpose. The Alchemist follows the story of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Who has a dream about finding treasure in the Pyramids of Egypt. An old man and a gypsy woman advise him to pursue this dream. With newfound courage, Santiago sells his sheep and travels to Tangier in Africa. After an encounter with a thief who steals his money Santiago works as a crystal merchant for a year before meeting his love and finds the treasure, he was looking for to be where he least expected. The Alchemist is a timeless, entertaining yet simple story about the journey we all take to find meaning in our lives. The book is about faith, power, and courage that we all find within ourselves in times of trouble to pursue the path of what we truly want. A mysterious path that is defined by destiny but obscured by life's neverending distractions. Santiago’s character shows the readers how along the way we can learn to trust our hearts, read the signs before us, and understand that as we look to fulfill a dream, it often looks to find us too. The main theme in The Alchemist is the concept of Personal Legend. Personal Legend is the means by which a person can see their life as fulfilling. The old man that Santiago encounters at the beginning of the story reflects on this concept and gives advice on pursuing this while he can as a young man. However. for Santiago it is the driving desire that takes him from being a simple shepherd boy to becoming an alchemist by the end of the book. A Personal Legend shows how interconnected we all are. This is demonstrated best through the example of a time when someone ignores their Personal Legend. The ruffians in the book talk about a treasure to be found back in Spain but explain that no matter how much desire and how many dreams they have about it, it would be foolish to pursue it. This is ignoring their Personal Legend, and by ignoring it, they suffer from lifelong regret. But for those who do achieve their Personal Legend they go on to assign another Personal Legend. A true reflection of life’s neverending pursuit of goals and dreams. For much of the story, Santiago would rather fulfill a desire to be with his love Fatima. But his Personal Legend will not permit this until his alchemy training and wealth making are complete. Only then can he truly enjoy life with her in a way that allows him to get the most out of it. If he doesn’t pursue his Personal Legend, it will not bring as much joyfulness or purpose in his individual path through life. The story unfolds as a spiritual journey, although it touches on religious ideas, the context is not based on a prominent religion and the philosophies shared can be applied to people from all walks of life. The reader is taken on this journey with Santiiago and made to question his decisions and intentions by reflecting on their own life’s purpose. Paulo challenges the reader through sometimes philosophical passages and metaphoric language that is designed to be thought deeply upon. Indeed, what is the meaning of life? Paulo Coelho is a world-renowned author with his books selling millions of copies around the globe. His best-selling book The Alchemist has been translated into 60 different languages and sold in 150 countries across the globe. You can purchase a digital or hard copy of The Alchemist through Amazon and major book retailers. Would appreciate your thoughts about this book or other book reviews and I hope that JewSurf’s ‘Literature & Art’ Forum will be a place where book lovers can discuss and share their thoughts and findings.
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