“The Alchemist;” a Major Disappointment.

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Judging from my friends’ reviews and ratings, Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” seemed to be a book of great magnitude. I thought it would be of an unequal inspiration and life-altering influence. To my great dismay, the book had nothing of what I had hoped for. People say that it’s a great fable about pursuing one’s dream, but what’s new in that? Coelho is absolutely not the first person to believe that people must follow their dreams. However, being an extremely popular book, I had no choice but read it.

The book is filled with unjustified repetitions, redundancies as well as an immense abuse of symbolism from cover to cover. It seems that Coelho makes sure to remind the reader of some arguably unfathomable notions such as “The Soul of the World,” “Maktub,” “omens” and “The Language of The World.” He keeps repeating those words throughout the whole book until it becomes irritating. I understand that the book is of a spiritual nature, but…come on! Challenging the reader to the extent of irritation won’t help reaching the goal behind reading, which I think is comprehension. I just can’t be inspired if I don’t get the full image. Therefore, I wouldn’t be lying if I said that the writing style was annoying.

As far as the moral of the book is concerned, it remains clear that it’s about fulfilling our dreams. Santiago’s dream was to go to the Egyptian Pyramids to look for his treasure there. What I can’t understand, though, is why would Santiago feel sorry for people who chose to settle down and not move? Why doesn’t he respect the will of other people? What if those people’s dream was to settle down and not travel through the Sahara? If that was Santiago’s dream, I think it doesn’t mean that everyone should have the same vision. I don’t think people should necessarily move from a place to another to fulfill their dreams. These things are very relative; what works for some people might not for other people.

Love has its share of significance in “The Alchemist.” But once again, Coelho (or Santiago,) fails to convince me of the logic behind the character’s vulnerability to love. He fell in love with the merchant’s daughter in Spain in seconds, and then fell in love with the desert girl in Al-Fayyum, in Egypt in seconds, and without even uttering a single word! You gotta be kidding me!  But even when he finds love and has enough money to become a rich man, he decides to leave his supposedly loved one and go to the Pyramids in search of his treasure. This happens after he announces that Fatima (The desert girl) is even more important than any other treasure in the world. If so, why on Earth did he not stay with her and preferred to continue his journey looking for the treasure? Why is his dream of such a monetary and material nature even when he claims he loves Fatima more than anything else? A flagrant contradiction.

Another detail that couldn’t go unnoticed is the apparent male domination in the story. Men are wise and courageous whereas all the female characters are rather passive. Men went to war while women waited for them in their tents. Men hunted treasures while women waited for their return. Men travelled while women, …you guessed it, WAITED for their husband’s return.

On the whole, there might be some credit to the book as it pushes people towards attaining their dreams. It tries to convince the reader that if you want something the whole universe conspires to make you achieve it. However, I’d refuse to think of “The Alchemist” as one of the greatest books in literature history.

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7 thoughts on ““The Alchemist;” a Major Disappointment.

    Hajar Elyaaqoubi said:
    July 24, 2013 at 2:48 am

    I am one of the people who really love paulo coelho’s writings, especially the alchemist. I have read it years ago and I do agree with you when you talk about the male domination in the story. It s just when he talks about following one’s dream he gives the example of the old man who always has the dream to go to mekkah. I find it very true and precise at the same time because some of us just take comfort in dreaming and not even working in order to make it real. People are different and still he did not criticize it, he mentioned it as another point of view or way of looking at things.

      amseghir responded:
      July 24, 2013 at 3:20 am

      Thank you Hajar for your comment.
      While writing this review, I knew my opinion wouldn’t be very popular due to Coelho’s popularity. I think you made good points there, though.
      Thank you again for visiting my blog and commenting on this post.

    Marwa said:
    July 24, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Frankly speaking, i didn’t read the book yet, but really your criticism pushes me to do it as soon as possible…
    You actually skillfully conceptualize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the book.. skills that are necessary to call a person a critical thinker.

      amseghir responded:
      July 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      Thank you very much, Marwa. I’ll be glad to know your opinion of the book.
      Have a good read! 🙂 🙂

    Rudaina said:
    July 26, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I think the journey what it matters, more than the dream itself.
    I agree with your binary opposition of male/female one even though
    it visualizes a period and a culture which once lived or still living in Sahara. Concerning the plot, at the end it is a travel narrative, a typical one in which the masculine European hero has the agency to travel and returning to his original home. In addition, I think some parts in the story
    can be intellectualized to some stories in Arabic and English folklore.

      Rudaina said:
      July 26, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      ” “the masculine logic of sessility” is a dominant element in which the female stay at home waiting for her man.

      amseghir responded:
      July 27, 2013 at 12:42 am

      I understand your points. Nevertheless, I think that what disappointed me was the halo the book has been surrounded by. I thought it’d be magical or something. This is what made me think it’s overrated. High expectations are dangerous.

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