Note: This is not a comedy but it’s so ubiquitous that I had to review it.
The Alchemist can be summed up using Coelho’s own words when he has one of his characters sum up a certain book that the protagonist is reading when they meet.
“‘It’s a book that says the same thing almost all the other books in the world say,’ continued the old man. ‘It describes people’s inability to choose their own Personal Legends.’” By this he means people’s inability to follow their hearts and dreams.
The fear of failure prevents us from achieving our dreams and if we simply follow our hearts we will achieve our personal goals. The end.
Unfortunately, this is not even correct. We all can’t follow our hearts to the Oval Office. Given the four year presidential term, it’s just not mathematically possible.
And yet somehow The Alchemist has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 56 languages.
I think the popularity of this book can be attributed to three words.
It feels deep.
But the problem is, it’s not.
The story itself is about a Spanish boy who gives up his heard of sheep to follow his newfound dream of finding his treasure near the Egyptian pyramids. Along the way, he meets an alchemist who becomes his mentor. As a bibliophile friend of mine said, it’s a cute story.
The problem I have with it is that Coelho is a snake oil salesman pulling the wool over all of our eyes.
His recipe for sounding deep is to 1) write in a simplistic, allegorical style, 2) avoid giving his characters names, simply referring to them as the boy, the old man, and the Englishman etc., and 3) give everything a soul – The Soul of the World, The Soul of the Desert, the Soul of the Caravan etc.
Further, he fills the book with passages that at first glance appear profound, but upon the tiniest of inspection, we see that they are nothing but confused and often contradictory bits of nonsense and/or bullshit. Below are a few of my favorites.
“Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”
“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
“There had been a time when he thought that his sheep could teach him everything he needed to know about the world. But they could have never taught him Arabic.”
I actually really like this last quote because it is one of the universe’s inherent truths. Loser sheep can’t teach us anything. Especially Arabic. Fuckin’ grass-chewing morons.
So while I would not recommend this book to anyone, it does have a satisfying ending and I also really like the following quote, so I’m giving it 2.5 pearls and rounding down to 2 since I always seem to round up and need to even that out a bit.
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are.”
Bonus Fun Fact: According to Paulo, “there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.” Awesome! So my desire to plow Natalie Portman originated in the soul of the universe. How romantic. I’m sure she’ll swoon once she hears that and without a doubt let me get my drill on.
If you would like to buy this pretentious hoax, please click here to purchase it at Amazon via my affiliate link which will provide me with a tiny percentage of the cost at no additional charge to you whatsoever.
Bonus Insight: “…he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.
‘I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure,’ he said to himself.”
Me? I’m a treasure adventuring for poontang.
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