Michael Cunningham's Reviews > The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
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's review
Sep 12, 2013

really liked it

The Alchemist is a rare book, it is a book like no other, one that will stay with you for years after reading it, and will bring you joy every time you think about it. All I can say about this book is that I am very glad that I read it. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is like an oasis full of hope and life energy situated at the very center of a burning desert. The novel is short and written like an old fairy tale or mythic legend, it details the spiritual transformation of a young shepard named Santiago which occurs after he meets a strange, yet mystic sage. In order to undergo the inner alchemy Santiago has to give up everything (just as the Buddha did), the novel teaches the very simple truth that only when you give up everything can you have it all. I will write the prologue to the book here, it is short and sweet and always reminds me of the essence of the novel:

‘The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus. The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus. But this was not how the author of the book ended the story. He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears. “Why do you weep?” the goddesses asked.
“I weep for Narcissus,” the lake replied.
“Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus” they said, “for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate the beauty close at hand.”
“But… was Narcissus beautiful?” the lake asked.
“Who better than you to know that?” the goddesses said in wonder. “After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!”. The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said: “I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.”
“What a lovely story”, the alchemist thought.

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