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.