The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is one of my favorite novels. I read it years ago shortly after my first trip to Korea. I liked it because I could completely relate to Santiago, the main character. He chose to be a shepherd because he wanted to travel. I chose to teach for the same reason. Also, like Santiago, I had a dream. Whereas he had a dream that led him to Egypt in search of treasure, mine, I suppose, is a little less tangible. Coelho wrote the book as fable, a guide on how to follow your dream, how to achieve it. When I first read the book I was enthralled. And I believed that maybe the universe would conspire to help me attain my goal as well.
But as is often the case, life intervened. I finished reading, set the book aside, and as the years passed I forgot not only the plot, but the lessons Coelho tried to impart. All I remember was the alchemist telling the boy, “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.” I’m not sure why I never forgot that, why of everything that transpired in the novel it was the only piece that lingered. Maybe it’s because of my own luck, or lack of it. I keep thinking, I can’t get robbed of an opportunity again, but I do, and so my mind gets tossed back to the alchemist and the words of warning he spoke to Santiago.
After more than two decades, I felt the need to revisit the novel. What am I doing wrong in my own quest? Was it too late to hope for better results? Maybe a second reading, would help set me back on track. Then last year we moved, and one afternoon my son was going through all the bins of books I have down in the basement. As he was haphazardly tossing books aside and scanning titles he came across The Alchemist and said he wanted to read it. He wanted to read it. I wanted to reread it. So when my spouse and I decided we were going to keep our son home for at least one more semester of homeschooling, I immediately added it to our English curriculum. If nothing else, it would be a fun adventure, something to ease us both into the school year.
My old copy of the book was marked up with read pen. Passage after passage underlined. And what struck me was that the same words I found so powerful and meaningful eons ago still moved me. Of course, to teach the book, I underlined even more and jotted questions in the margins. I think I enjoyed the book more the second time through, though there was a heaviness about the book that was missing last time. Was it regret? The ability to identify all the times I stepped off the path that I should have followed? Santiago certainly faced a few setbacks on his journey and he grappled with doubt, but in the end battered and exhausted — but not beaten — he found his treasure. There are many days I feel battered, even more when I feel exhausted, and yet here I am, another day of setting words down on a screen because I’m not sure what else I’d do with myself. Does that mean I’m not yet beaten? Does it mean that my treasure awaits — somewhere?
Enough about me. This is supposed to be about G3. When we finished reading the novel, I asked him to write a review. There was a great deal of eye rolling and some grumbling, but he did as I asked. As always, his writing went through an extensive revision process. But after taking the summer off, I noticed how much his writing has improved from last September. He still makes grammatical mistakes and he wasn’t as expansive in places as he could have been, but he had fewer mistakes than last year, and a much stronger sense of how to construct a more academic piece. As for what he thought of the book, well, I’ll let him tell you that.
The Alchemist: A Review
The Alchemist is a novel written by Paulo Coelho about following your dreams, A.K.A. your personal legend. Santiago, the main character, is a Shepard. He meets a king after having a recurring dream in a falling down church. In the dream, a child is playing with Santiago’s sheep and then he teleports Santiago to the Egyptian pyramids. He says, if you come here you will find hidden treasure. After hearing the dream, the king tells Santiago to leave Spain and do what his dream says. Santiago sells his sixty sheep so he can have enough money to go to Africa. When he gets there, a thief steals his money. Then, Santiago is forced to work with a crystal merchant to save enough money to go home because he lost hope. He enjoys working with the crystal merchant. He has good ideas, and he learns Arabic.
After a year of working, Santiago decides to have another go at his dream and he joins a caravan traveling east and heading toward Egypt. He meets an Englishman who wants to meet an alchemist at an oasis so he can become an alchemist too. When they reach the oasis, Santiago meets and falls in love with Fatima. In a few days, he predicts that an army will attack the oasis. Santiago warns the chief and the chief says that everyone can have their arms back for defense, but if at least one weapon is not used tomorrow, one will be used on Santiago. But for every twelve dead attackers, he will get a gold piece. After talking with the chief, Santiago meets the alchemist and the alchemist tells Santiago to meet him at his tent tomorrow — if he isn’t dead. Santiago, at the end of the next day, gets 51 pieces of gold. Then, in the days that follow, he sets out for the pyramids after having many talks with the alchemist about wether he should or should not go. When they get to the pyramids, the alchemist turns back and a bunch of thieves rob Santiago. One thief says he had a recurring dream right where Santiago was looking for treasure. In this dream, he saw a falling down church in Spain where treasure was buried.
Now, my mom is making me say what I like and dislike about the book. I really only dislike one thing, the non-stop talk about God. I myself do not believe in God, but I love to study about different religions. I, respectfully, don’t think God is real because there is a reasonable explanation for everything. One example is the big bang which explains the creation of the world. I did like the setting of the novel. I don’t know why, it just felt appropriate. The adventure was also cool. It had the right number of set backs and all the characters had important roles. Coelho’s message, although increasingly cheesy, was put in a way that was not childish, which I liked.
Another thing Mom is making me put in this review is if I would recommend The Alchemist. I do (mostly to children so they know to follow their dreams). The reason I say so is because I love the adventure, the message, and the setting. I am sorry Mom, I can’t say any more, but that is the reason I recommend it.
Santiago’s dream is to travel the world. I can relate to this. When I grow up, I want to travel the world. The places I would most want to visit are the Great Barrier Reef because it won’t be there in 100 years. I’d like to see Russia because there is a lot of rich history. Finally, I want to go to the Black Forest because it is filled with mysteries.
I think my personal legend includes many things. I want to be a writer since I love writing. I like creating stories because I like to be in my own world that goes the way I want it to go, instead of being in someone else’s world. Another thing I want to be is an astrophysicist. I love both the stars and physics. I love the constellations because they are fun to find and they connect me to Greek Myths which I enjoy reading. The last thing I want to do is be a glassblower because the objects glassblowers create are so beautiful. The Alchemist can help me achieve my personal legends because it says if you really want something you can achieve it. Also, it says if you want something badly enough the whole world conspires for you to get it. I also learned that achieving my personal legend won’t be easy. One example of this is that I may lose my money or get imprisoned. But I need to keep going, even if the going gets tough or I will never again be happy.