Sunday, 16 March 2008

The Alchemist [Book Review]

It was an easy interesting read, this is the first thought I had when I closed Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. The map attached with the story was very helpful, I am a visual person and using any type of illustration makes a story interesting to me.

Disappointed? YES.

It is a good book, but the problem with reading so much about a book you did not read yet, is that you get high expectations and might give a pre-judgment, and since we are “different” people each with his own taste, those expectations can brake easily!

It is an easy read, full of virtues and simple guides for life, it had a lot of direct lessons and advice all along the book, we are meant to learn every thing Santiago did in his journey, and do the same in our lives “learn along the way”.

Paulo wrote in a smooth way, the lessons he sent in his book were too obvious and known for me, they seemed logical and they were most likely to come from a religious person who wants man to unite with the universe and learn from it and have a strong faith in God. That made the story lose “the mystery and hidden message” factor, but I have to admit the ending was surprising! I loved it, and it was my most favorable lesson

Being an Arab and a Muslim made me very strict with the details, which he inserted into the story, like: believes found in Islam and words Arabs say! On that particularly, I had the following notes:

Simum: where he used this word to describe the strong wind accompanied by sand. The Simum is known in Arabic to describe the VERY HOT wind, Simum comes from the word “Soum = Poison (سُم)”, it is used to describe the very hot wind that feels like poison and could kill like poison too! Therefore, “Simum” was not well utilized, although I was impressed by the Author’s background.

Santiago’s relation with Fatima was very weird in the Arabic culture, usually Arab girls try not to get involved with strangers certainly who are Christian “assuming she is a Muslim that is! She could be Christian!” Of course, she might have fallen in love with out asking about those things but it was weird for me that the Author did not tackle the issue of how far culturally they are, and yet they fell in love! And the issue of how many problems will await their matrimony, as Santiago had intended for his love to end?

I do not wish to sound like I am biased to my religion or culture but the story did not tackle it as it did with Christianity and Judaism. For instance if we let aside the main Character’s religious background, in the story there was the rabbi who was thought to be the son of God and before that the King of Salem who had “Melchizedek” for a name. After a quick search online the name “Melchizedek” is related to both Christian and Judaism cultures, he is known to be “priest of the most High God” and Salem is believed to be Jerusalem.

Both characters were fair and just, unlike most Arabic/ Islamic people Santiago passed by in his journey, certainly there are not all evil! No! for instance the Merchant was a kind man, the writer also pointed out many positive aspects of Arabs/ Muslims and negative too, and in my defense I would say this is natural since the plot went on in that world, hence there was more space to talk about Muslim Arabs. However, I hoped for some examples to be inserted about good and just ancient people from the Islamic culture, then again its his story ;p

Again I am not saying this ruined the story! I am saying my own personal notes, back to the review ;p

Two characters in particular made me wonder! (1) Melchizedek, The King of Salem (believed to be Jerusalem, the story & character are found in Judaism and Christianity), a fair king, a wise man who put him in his path and was implied to be a messenger of God to set him on his path. (2) The Alchemist “character” was not strict to the regulations of Islam, a thing Santiago himself noted when the Alchemist offered him wine! He was a guide for Santiago to pursue his dream, as the king was! In addition, he was similar in his sudden appearance as the king, and knew a lot as the king did, but not more than the king, his knowledge was limited. Of course, the gypsy was there before the Alchemist, however she did not have a mission to guide him, she only interpreted what he asked her to. She did not come to him as the King and the Alchemist did.

So at that point I was wondering, why would a guide on his path, who knows so much, be sinful? I had the impression that all the people who knew about Santiago, his quest and were there to guide him were role models, like the king?! Why would such an important character be a sinful one?!

From the first 20 pages, you can see that the writer is a person with a good religious background as I thought only in Christianity and Judaism but latter on it was obvious he knew a lot about Islam too. The messages he sends throughout the book are found in those religions. Very right and wise I must say, this is regardless to from which religion he was inspired, and personally, I think it was a combination from the three.

All in all it’s a good story, the ending was my best lesson.


Anonymous said...

This book changed my life!

Q80-Chill Girl said...


a lot day so, but to me it was nothing new ,, however i still agree its a good book