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The Alchemist (Insight) by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist (Insight)

Harry The Stallion Grant, September 10, 2012

In a world of literature based on spirituality, religion, and quests for self-betterment, there is one book that takes all of these concepts and beats them all to a bloody pulp. That book is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
The Alchemist is obnoxious, preachy, and full of bad lessons for the reader while being posed as “good” lessons. The story begins with a shepherd boy, Santiago, who, after having a dream of treasure in the pyramids twice, decides to act literally on his dreams and go search for treasure. Instead of planning out this venture, Santiago sells all of his sheep, talks to a magical king, and sets off to the pyramids with nothing but some money and the idea that he should treat everything as an omen, and to follow them. The prospect of acting literally on dreams is so unrealistic that the possibility of it being a relatable story is whisked away in the first few pages.
Santiago’s quest takes him through many trials, such as being stolen from several times and trying to turn into the wind. Santiago tells himself that he will make his own decisions despite relying almost entirely on Paulo Coelho’s religion sandwich of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and even his own philosophy. Coelho’s proposes the thought that everything in the world has a soul, which forms the Soul of the World through a hierarchal soul-tower. Santiago’s reliance on his religion is so great that he bets his life on it several times, one occasion based entirely on seeing some birds fight.
Santiago is told that everyone has a Personal Legend, which is essentially a destiny that people don’t realize and can choose to follow. It is, however, the only thing that will make them happy. Santiago’s Personal Legend, as he is told, is to find treasure in the pyramids. He is also told that the whole world will conspire to assist to him in achieving his goal. This is not evident, as it seems everything works against him (he is stolen from, beaten, and put in generally risky situations). Santiago is also told that coincidence does not exist, which explains why he sees everything as an omen (flying birds, snakes in a hole) and to be noticed and treated like something important in his life.
The worst parts of the book are not even in the story, but the pretentiousness of Paulo Coelho. This book creates his own religion (a Coelho Cult, if you will), through the binding of other religions. Coelho makes attempts to be philosophical with the quote (by the alchemist) “Everything that happens once can never happen again, but something that happens twice will surely happen a third time”. If something were to happen once, it would never happen again. For something to happen twice (and, evidently, a third time), it would defy the previous statement. Coelho’s own philosophy is a paradox.
In short, the book is most likely more enjoyed by those of spiritual belief or religious than those without.
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