Monday, May 5, 2008

Paulo Coelho/THE ALCHEMIST

i picked this book up on a lark as
part of a buy two get one free deal
at the local barnes and noble. i had
certainly heard of the book before, but
only the title rung a bell with me.
it was published here here in 1998
while i was in grad school.
i never read for pleasure while in uni--
it was one thing i missed a lot despite
the fact that i love being a student.

santiago decides not to follow what
his family wishes for him, to become a
priest, but instead follow his desire
to travel and see more of the world by
becoming a sheepherder. a recurrent dream
of treasures at the egyptian pyramids
prompts the boy to abandon his sheep
to pursue his Personal Legend.

the Personal Legend, as the boy is
told by various wise men he encounters,
is what every person is born to achieve.
it is his destiny in this life which will
make him truly happy. but as humans
full of foibles as we are, we learn
to suppress our Personal Legend as
we grow older. We let fear of failure, fear
of success even, and the small details of
surviving life get in the way.

coelho's prose is straightforward,
clean and simple. prose that i always
admire in a writer. it is the reason i love
ursula le guin's fantasy books so much--
for her simple prose and storytelling.
coelho tells a uncomplicated tale which
every person reading can understand and
relate to--the relinquishing of our dreams--
what would truly make us happy. and the
courage it takes to never give up.

my issue with the story is that it seemed
to get didactic at times. yes, it is indeed
a fable, but in certain points in the story,
the message got heavy-handed for me.
it certainly is a fine line. but overall, i did
enjoy the book. i didn't like it as much as
i wanted to. i was really drawn in at the
beginning, taken by the hand. it reminded me
of many fantasy stories i loved.

it was toward the middle, when i felt
the author's message a little too strongly,
but he led me back again with good
storytelling. i can see why so many people
would have loved this book. it's an inspiring,
thought-provoking tale written in beautiful
prose by coelho.

2 comments:

angelle said...

i liked this book when i read it, but i also happen to think it's probably one of the most overrated books ever. people call it life-changing and all of that, and it just really isn't.

nico said...

I thoroughly object to this book. It was called life-changing, and fans thought it spiritual when it was just ordinary.