Friday, February 25, 2011
The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
The Alchemist has a dreamy feel to it. It is calming to read and I agree with another reviewer that it feels like a bedtime story. It is written simply, and doesn't try to hide it's intended meaning very deep. I liked it and I recommend it.
This story is an allegory or a parable about a shepherd who is referred to as "the boy" and the journey he makes toward self-actualization. I think it would have fit well in my high school philosophy class, you know with Siddhartha and Candide. In the beginning he meets an old king. The King explains, "Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.....but, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend." So the boys sets off to follow his. He, observes, "No matter how many detours and adjustments it made, the caravan moved toward the same compass point. Once obstacles were overcome, it returned to its course, sighting on a star that indicated the location of the oasis." And so it goes for him.
Along the way he discovers the Language of the World, which connects everyone regardless of culture or language. He eventually explains this as the Soul of the World. I always like allusions to us all being connected. When the boy taps into this, miracles happen.
Here are some more quotes I liked:
His father said, "Amongst us, the only ones who travel are the shepherds."
"Well, then I'll be a shepherd."
"There was a moment of silence so profound that it seemed the city was asleep...It was as if the world had fallen silent because the boy's soul had."
"It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that's where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are." LOVE IT.
When the book is almost over, the boy has an epiphany and realizes, "On the way toward realizing his own Personal Legend, he had learned all that he needed to know, and had experienced everything he might have dreamed of." And maybe that should have been the end. He had realized truths, gained knowledge, shared beliefs, and I really liked all of it. But what happens next seems kind of dumb to me. Maybe that was Coelho's intention, that we realize the journey is more important than the end. Because the end kind of altered my affection for the book.
Having re-read my notes, and typed up some of my favorite quotes, I realize how much there is to like in The Alchemist. I really liked the boy, and how he was sincerely questioning and learning all the time. I like the simple characters that he associates with and how they each help him understand something.
So what did you think? What were your favorite parts? If you haven't read it, hopefully you will know from this review whether or not it's your sort of book!