Book Review: The Al-Chemist

This review has been published in October 2015 issue of the monthly Renaissance magazine.


“And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives.”

(Suratun Najm: 39)

In today’s contemporary world, our minds are stacked with an already laid path to follow. The path of our lives as how to live it by the norms and memes of the society and the world at large. We adore those who carve their own different way but rare is the sight of such aspiration whilst our soul remains thirsty of such inspiration.

Alchemist is a concised 177 paged book written on the core idea of following your dream. In this book, Paulo Coelho – the writer metaphorically scribbles about a boy who was a shepherd. Belonging from a poor family, the boy wants to see big cities but he has no money to travel so he became a shepherd because in the villages of Spain only shepherds were the men who got to see the world by travelling from one place to another. At that moment the boy noticed that his father had wanted the same but abandoned the dream for the sustenance of his family. The boy was mystical and saw a recurring dream twice that he was at the great Pyramids of Egypt and there lied a treasure but he never saw the end of the dream which took him to a gypsy woman who interpreted that the boy should go to Pyramids.  At another instance the boy met the King of Salem who disguised himself as an old man and persisted that the boy should go to the Pyramids and gave him two stones out of his Emerald chest to use as directions of good and evil in difficult situations. The boy followed his pursuit of dream and met people who had dreams but held back because they feared the outcome. In the pursuit of his dream, he got financially barren, cheated, hurt and tested but he continued. The book teaches that in following your dream each element that you work on is a tool to aid in helping you achieve your goal.

The boy travelled to the great desert of Sinai in order to reach Egypt. There he met an alchemist. A man who from his serene spirit believed in the soul of the world. He had the power to convert the lead in gold. Mr. Coelho metaphors the metal Lead as anything that we hold on to or a point which sustains us and the term Gold as anything that is purified by our soul. The gold is referred to an entity which is our destiny and the lead will only convert in gold provided the intentions are earnest. In the guidance of the alchemist the boy sought inspiration to reach to his destiny. The boy learned to listen to his heart and to talk to him. The boy made his heart believe in his destiny so long that the heart started speaking the language of the world. Language of the world, Mr. Coelho says, is the language that only the followers of a destiny understand, the omens that tell us of a prospect happening in near time either evil or good. The boy learned how everything went along once a chosen one is set to follow his path.

The book muses about gems of spirituality which relates to one if he is in the path of his destiny. At one point the alchemist says:

“We do not want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts.”

Then he replied: “Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts do not like to suffer.”

Answering a million dollar question Mr. Coelho writes indeed hearts have to suffer but in exchange they get a life of serenity, courage and the art of relating to one’s own heart. This being life’s sole purpose.

The boy crossed the desert after becoming a perfect disciple of alchemist and reaches to the Pyramids. There he did not find his treasure that he had come for. There he was told by a man that he was being a fanatic having believed on a recurring dream because he himself had recurrent dreams that the treasure was at the local town church from where the boy belonged. The boy then crossed all the way and reached to Spain where it was conveyed by the man that the treasure buried. On reaching his destiny the boy realised the power of his dream and the pertaining consequences of life.

The book has been translated into 42 languages and more than 20 million copies have been sold. In a pensive attempt, the book at one point unfolds that the alchemist tells the tribe chief that boy knows how to convert himself into wind in exchange of his life. Whereas the boy does not know in reality as how to convert himself into wind. This being a tangent to the reality the boys talks to wind and sun and the elements combine create a sand tornado that pulls off the placed camps of the Sinai deserts. At another instant the tribe chief says that Prophet Joseph (May Peace be Upon Him) was thrown into dungeon because of believing in dreams whereas the reality was otherwise as we have studied in the divine manuscript.

The content of the book is simple yet engaging. One can relate easily if he is pursuing a dream of his own and can validate the presented happenings as enlightenment. It delves one into believing in himself and motivates to follow without fearing the outcome because the boy lost when he reached to the Pyramid but won at another second which again was told by the language of the world.