The Alchemist, by
Brazilian author Paulo Coehlo, was an international bestseller,
translated into 56 languages. It relates the tale of an Andalusian
shepherd boy who has the courage to seek his "Personal
Legend." Many found it greatly inspirational; others thought
it full of New Agey mumbo jumbo.
Santiago, the shepherd boy, dreams that a treasure is hidden for him at the pyramids. He travels from his Spanish homeland to the Egyptian desert to find it, meeting along the way a mysterious king who gives him two magical stones that will help him "read the omens" and a 200-year-old alchemist who can purify metals to reveal the Soul of the World. They impart to him such wisdom as "When you really want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." And, indeed, even the wind and the sun come to Santiago's aid.
To be sure, there are wise exhortations in The Alchemist, such as "Life is the moment we're living right now" and "Listen to your heart." But it's nothing we haven't heard before. And for all its feel-good intentions, The Alchemist is unsympathetic to those who don't follow personal quests for whatever reason — like, for instance, having to earn a living. Such folks presumably are doomed to empty lives. And are women included among those who have personal legends? Santiago meets Fatima at a desert oasis and and falls in love with her; her personal legend seems to be to wait for him to return.
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