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The Essential Wisdom of Following Your Heart and Dream

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Life is more about the journey through, and not the destination; this is what Paulo Coelho’s novel, The Alchemist appears to say, in an admirable way. However, this was nearly an annoying book to read. Not because it was a bad story but just because you feel the prose could have been more tightly written, and you feel you could probably have written the story better. But when you at last realise that it is a translation, you begin to forgive both the translator and the author.
I would call The Alchemist, a fairy tale for grown ups because that is what it actually is. I absolutely love fantasy books anyway and have it in mind to write at least one within the next few years. Like most good books the plot is very simple: Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd boy whose initial ambition is just to marry the daughter of a grocer who sometimes buys the wool off his sheep. Along the way to meet the love of his life, he meets a gypsy woman who predicts good fortune for him in the future. Very soon after he meets good old King Melchizedek ; if you have been faithful with your bible reading you will probably remember him. In any case, in the same manner as he is famously remembered, Melchizedek pronounced that he will find a huge treasure near the pyramids in Egypt- , in exchange for a tithe of his flock.
Santiago sells his entire flock of sheep and travels to Africa, where he promptly and foolishly lost all his money to a thief and has to go to work as servant to a crystal merchant whose fear is to achieve his dream because he would then have nothing more to live for. Eventually he saves enough money again and thereafter braves a long desert journey and hostile tribesmen at war until the camel train he is travelling with takes refuge at an oasis. Here he meets the alchemist, a man who claims he is more than 200years old and has in his possession the Elixir of Life and also the Philosopher’s stone with which he is able to turn any metal into gold. He also appeared to know all the secrets of the world. A fortuitous incident, a vision , saw him elevated to a high position at the oasis, quite in the same manner as Joseph in the bible. Santiago falls in love with a girl and contemplates terminating his life journey in this oasis. But the alchemist persuades him to press on in search of his treasure, and together they journeyed on, again through treacherous desert and through a nearly fatal encounter with warriors. Finally Santiago arrives at the pyramids and begins to dig for his treasure. Desert thieves again happen upon him while he is at work; severely beat him and take away his money, leaving him for dead. They turn out to be a blessing in disguise however, as a contemptuous remark by one of the thieves proves to be an ironic epiphany which finally tells him where his treasure is.
Santiago returns home to Andalusia, locates the courtyard of a disused chapel inside which he sometimes spent the night with his sheep. And below the sacristy he found an immense treasure.
There are a thousand and one lessons that may be learned from this story, and especially from the philosophical tapestry on which it had been woven. I think the biggest one of them is that while life may often send us on a tough mission, even a wild goose chase, the objective is never because we must suffer but that we must become wiser. Secondly we may eventually discover that the prize, the treasure we seek of life and which we go to the end of the world in search of, was buried very near the place we started off from.
The Alchemist is a delicious book, with an annoyingly mechanical prose. The many books of the Holy Bible were written by gifted translators who succeeded in delivering works so complete in their literary merits that they deserved to be canonised. The Alchemist could have passed for one of the “lost books”, pity…….