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Book Review: The Alchemist

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The Alchemy of life

By: TMR Mohsin

The story is about an Andalusian boy named Santiago…intelligent and brave enough to live out his dreams, whose purpose was to find out “Treasure” and to espy the Marvels of nature and life.

Santiago often has a dream wherein he finds himself standing amidst a vast desert and digging the land below some pyramids : to extract the riches which were shown him in his dreams.

He takes it as a good omen–an instruction from unseen. He, then, sets out as a wanderer from Spain all the way to Egyptian pyramids to realize his long cherished dream, “The dream of finding the treasure”.

However, his parents wanted him to become a priest. They arranged Santiago’s teaching in Latin, Spanish and theology in a seminary, but he ended his studies prematurely, desiring instead to travel the world. The father resists and argues that it’s not possible for him to travel as it either requires a big fortune to defray travel expenses or that are the Shepherds alone who can travel. The boy resolves, then, to become a Shepherd and embarks on his destiny.

The author wants us to realize that life is not merely surviving but living each and every moment to its fullest, embracing wholeheartedly whatever the joys and adversities life unfolds onto you.

This is, I guess, the pith and substance of the parable which the author has tried brilliantly to put forth in different styles here and there in the book. Santiago finds his journey full of excitements, difficulties and thrills and finds miracles and signs of God all around: from vast swathes of green pastures, starlit heavens, cold morning breeze to a grain of sand.

Besides Santiago, following are the main characters;  the old wise king who turns out to be a mentor for the boy, Fatima (whom he fell for) and the Alchemist who guides him at crucial and desperate moments and teaches him how to tackle the vicissitudes of life.

The author expounds whatever existing in universe is the outcome of a meaningful wish…to enable and assist a “true seeker” in finding his/her destiny. The writer believes “everything on earth is being continuously transformed, because the earth is alive…and it has a soul, so we rarely recognize that it is working for us”.

But having a burning desire in heart is something which is preconditioned. “When you want something all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”, the author maintains.

Moreover, the man-of-letters has termed it important to view the cosmos by our own standpoint.

I found the first part of the book (which talks about Santiago’s shepherd life and adages of the old king) more profound comparing the second one. Number of terms like Soul of the world, Beginner’s luck, Principle of favorability etc have been devised which may help the reader to interpret the divine scheme of things.

This gives one a reason to believe why the things are the way they are. Since he writes “I learned the world has a soul and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things”.

One also finds a brief love story between Santiago and Fatima, a Bedouin. However, his devotion to destiny did not let him abandon his arduous journey. In the words of author “you must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny. If he abandons that pursuit, it’s because it was not true love”.

To put simply the pivotal extraction of the book is heeding to your inner calling, in a way by giving it not only a serious thought but mustering courage to pursue that calling.

I found the book very animated and full of wisdom. The simplicity in writing with seamless flow of narrating sub-stories are some distinguished attributes that enlarge the elegance of this masterpiece.

I particularly recommend the novel to non-fiction readers because what it offers to its readers can hardly be experienced via non-fiction writings.

(The Alchemist-fiction) is authored by Paulo Coelho. The book is published by Harper Collins)

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