It must’ve been around five years ago that my eldest daughter presented me with The Alchemist for Christmas. Little did I know at the time what a profound impact that small, rather short book, would have on my life. I know that that may sound a bit cliche, and if I were hamming it up for an infommertial, perhaps it would be, but I’m not, and the sentiment is profoundly sincere.
Let me pause here for a minute to say, that if you haven’t yet read The Alchemist, and you’re the type of person that doesn’t presume to be all-knowing, that questions fate more often than submits to it and that suffers from an unquenchable drive to follow their dreams, then do yourself a favour. Find a quiet corner of the universe to hole up in, and allow yourself to be drawn in to an allegory that will challenge your perceptions of freedom of choice.
Ironically, that The Alchemist has gained such worldwide recognition is in itself, inspiring. Paulo Coelho first published the book in 1988, in Brazil in his native Portuguese, where it received little notice. After an initial print run of only 900 copies the publisher decided not to reprint, and It wasn’t until it was published in Spanish, that word-of-mouth began to spread like the sands of the Sahara, and has now been translated into 67 languages and sold over 65 million copies in more than 150 countries.
The story revolves around a young shepherd boy named Santiago, who believing in a recurring dream, sets out from Andalucia in southern Spain, across the Sahara to Egypt, in search of a treasure. Despite a series of setbacks, his persistence and open-minded outlook, push him towards his final destination, or so he thinks.
Although I read The Alchemist long after my formative years, not only did I read it with gusto, but Santiago rekindled my sense of hope and forced me to re-examine my own attitudes with regard to that which is inevitable or simply a lapse of focus. I remember wishing I’d had this book to read while in my teens, and after putting it down thinking that it should be compulsory reading, for every high-school student. On the other hand, maybe teenagers lack the life experience and humility to recognize that life doesn’t just happen, that you need to step way outside your comfort zone to where the real opportunities lie, and that the path to your dreams may not be as straight or free of obstacles as you expect it to be.
This much I can say, The Alchemist can and will speak to you regardless of your age, regardless of your gender and regardless of your station in life. All that is required is a free spirit and a willingness to believe in yourself.