Like the one-time bestseller Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Alchemist presents a simple fable, based on simple truths and places it in a highly unique situation. And though we may sense a bestselling formula, it is certainly not a new one: even the ancient tribal storytellers knew that this is the most successful method of entertaining an audience even as slipping in a lesson or two. Brazilian storyteller Paulo Coehlo introduces Santiago, an Andalucian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a far off treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. And so he is off: leaving Spain to literally follow his dream.
Along the way he meets many spiritual messengers, who come in unassuming forms such as a camel driver and a well-read Englishman. In one of the vital Englishman’s books, Santiago first learns about the alchemists–men who believed that if a metal were heated for a few years, it would free itself of all its individual properties, and what was once left will be the “Soul of the World.” Of course he does eventually meet an alchemist, and the ensuing student-teacher relationship clarifies much of the boy’s misguided agenda, even as also emboldening him to stay true to his dreams. “My heart is afraid that it’s going to have to suffer,” the boy confides to the alchemist one night as they look up at a moonless night.
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself,” the alchemist replies. “And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes on the lookout for its dreams, because each second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
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