The Alchemist

The AlchemistLast week, I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which is an international bestseller about a journey of self-discovery. It’s also pretty short (~200 pages), so I blew through it.


The Alchemist is about the journey of a young shepherd as he travels from Spain to Egypt to fulfill his “Personal Legend.”


I have family and friends who loved The Alchemist and encouraged me to read it, but I was left underwhelmed and uninspired.

The Alchemist reads like a fable. The writing is very simple, the characters lack depth, and Coelho beats you over the head by repeating the same themes and phrases over and over and over again. While the simplicity might make the book accessible to a broader spectrum of readers, it really turned me off.

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

Its initial message was essentially “follow your dream,” which is admirable. However, Coelho writes that one’s dream (“Personal Legend”) is some unchangeable, unquestionable thing which we can only see clearly in childhood. I didn’t buy that at all. Furthermore,  he says that if you want your dream to happen hard enough, the entire universe will conspire to fulfill your individual desire and it will help you along the way with things like beginner’s luck and omens. Then, he started throwing out concepts like “The Soul of the World” and “The Language of the World” and other nonsense. Uff da.

There’s also a ridiculous subplot involving Fatima, a young woman whom “the boy” (the main character is always referred to this way) meets while travelling in the desert. The two fall in love immediately upon meeting and when the boy leaves shortly thereafter to pursue his Personal Legend, she accepts that it is her role as a woman to wait behind while her man goes out to fulfill his dream. Oi.

Maybe The Alchemist is just very polarizing. I know a lot of people have found it inspiring and life-changing, but it really did nothing for me.