1,177 of 1,227 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed But Ultimately Thought-Provoking and Worthwhile
Yes, much of what negative reviewers of this book have to say is true: the writing is blunt and simple, the characters lack depth and complexity, it is quite male-focused in its subject matter and language, it has a bunch of quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo, and so on. This book should not be put on the list of great literature for the ages. There are doubtless many novels...
Published on March 1, 2003 by Kenny O.
242 of 285 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial simplicity
Last spring I read "Illusions," by Richard Bach. When I read the reviews online, one guy mentioned he thought "The Alchemist" was superior to the story of "Illusions." I finally got around to "Alchemist" and I must say I was quite disappointed.
First off, yes I realize it's considered a fable, but the writing style is far too...
Published on July 14, 2000 by Chris Foreman
Most Helpful First | Newest First
116 of 141 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Omens here, omens there, omens everywhere.,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
In this childish fable our young hero learns to speak with his heart (also with the wind, with the sand, and with the sun), and meets magicians and alchemists, who teach him that if he follows his dream (i.e. his personal legend) then all the world will conspire to help him. Most importantly he learns to read the universal language written in omens that guide him along his way. Books are not really helpful for him; at the beginning he is reading one (and using it as a pillow), but once the quest starts he stops reading altogether. A fellow traveler who reads a lot is subtly made fun of, and is left behind.
Well, I see precious little wisdom in all of this. Of course you should follow your dreams, but to believe in omens as a guide, or that if you really want to realize your dream then the world will conspire to help you, is simply nonsense. This book is not about wisdom, it is about superstition...
185 of 228 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is no Little Prince,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I feel like I am pushing against the tide, but perhaps I can warn others, like me, who agreed to read this book because of comparisons to St. Exupery's classic, The Little Prince. It is too late to warn off my book club. Others expecting anything remotely as charming, disarming, witty, and downright delightful as Le Petit Prince should look elsewhere. I have read St. Exupery, Mr. Coelho, and you are no St. Exupery.
Perhaps it is the translator who lets us down, but the underlying text lays it on so thick that I doubt it. Where the Little Prince is light on its feet, The Alchemist is sluggish and burdened to groaning with its own ethical importance. Where the Little Prince repeatedly pierces and nudges us with the persistent and indefatigable wisdom of children, The Alchemist slogs on through its mythic mish-mash of hazy, tired images. Where the Little Prince constantly surprises us, The Alchemist surprised me mainly by its insistence on piling the cliches on.
When I got to the "darkest moment comes just before the dawn," I thought Coelho might be pulling my leg, trying to see how much foolishness he could wrap together before I caught on. And when, on the very next page, he spoke of how God protects children and drunks, I could hear him screaming with laughter--when will they all catch on?! On and on. But the ladling is SO thick that Coelho hasn't made much of a game of it. There is nothing playful in sight. I can only assume that Coelho is sincere and actually believes that the frailest cliches bear repeating. Over and over and over.
I do have one good thing to say about the book. It convinced me to return to the Little Prince to see if my memory had failed me. Mais non! After far too many years, I rediscovered the dashing companion of my youth, as fresh now as he was then, but full of new meanings I could not have guessed at then. If you seek a spiritual journey that might refresh you in the most unpredictable ways, try The Little Prince instead. It's short. It's delightfully illustrated. It's cheap. And it's actually worth your time.
112 of 137 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Both original and inspiring ...,
... unfortunately the original bits aren't inspiring and the inspiring bits aren't original. (Ok, OK, if Coelho can rip ideas off why can't I?).
This I-Spy book of philosophy is nothing more than 10th rate, watered down Voltaire. For Santiago, read Candide and you'll get some idea of where Coelho's influences came from. If you have not already read Candide or Micromégas, then you may find a spark or two of inspiration within The Alchemist, as Coelho does pull the right string occasionally, making the reader ponder where life is taking them and the essential power each of us possesses to change things. Admirable stuff indeed! When, however one recognises how dirivative and inferior Coelho's writings are, the message becomes tainted, insubstantial and ultimately worthless.
By all means click to register your disapproval of my little review, but please, try Voltaire's Candide, either in the original version (if your french is up to it) or in one of the excellent english translations available, and experience the wisdom and humour of a true master who genuinely understood life's great comedy. Coelho falls far short of those he seeks so desperately to emulate.
133 of 164 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If you like it, you deserve it.,
Without meaning to sound philosophical, I have to start my review by saying I do not believe there is such a thing as absolute truth. Like beauty, it is in the eyes of the beholder. Case in point: is THE ALCHEMIST a good book, a bad book or an indifferent one? Rarely has a book generated such diverse opinions. Feelings range from one end of the love-hate spectrum to the other, so which is the truth? That, depends on you. Or rather, on who you are.
To me, THE ALCHEMIST is absolute trash. The story revolves around the determined quest of a young boy to fulfil his dream. Not a bad subject in itself. What renders this book dismissable is a rare combination of borrowed axioms presented in the shallowest way. Irritating too. The basic message of `you've got to follow your heart' is repeated over and over again. Duly complemented by the sub-dictum `if you do, the universe will make sure you succeed'. Do not look for substantiation to those grandiose claims, none is given. Presumably the answers lie hidden in the sacred books of the Alchemists (among which Mr. Coelho must be a prominent figure) and not in this book that you are supposed to buy.
But maybe Mr. Coelho meant his book for kids, where, given a kid's short attention span the incessant repetitions make sense. Aha, but what about the fact that the hero's motive for his journey was to find a hidden treasure? Do you really want you kids to grow up valuing material wealth above all?
So there you have it. THE ALCHEMIST is addressed to adults who will not misinterpret the treasure hunt moral. On the other hand it is written like a children's story, complete with desert battles and elements that speak (the wind, the sand etc). If you like it, it is fine with me.
163 of 204 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Julia Roberts can have it,
The Alchemist: a conflicting mixture of Christianity, just enough hints at mysticism to make it attractive to New Agers, the most simplistic of self-help guruism, and a random sampling of anything else leaning vaguely toward shallow spirituality.
Add to this Coelho's shameless self-promotion in the Foreword ("I saw [noted literary figure] Julia Roberts reading The Alchemist on a beach the other day"), the helpful "Topics for Discussion" at the end of the book (hoping to pass the book off as something deeply philosophical, I'm guessing), and what is meant to be an attention-grabbing "quote" on the back cover, which sort of gives you the entire Point Of The Book without actually quoting the book, because quoting the actual line would cause even more people than usual to snort derisively and to chuck the book back into the 3-for-2 pile at the local bookstore(for the record, the quote on the back of the book says, "One's only obligation in life is to pursue one's desiny," which is twee enough as it is...but nowhere does the book actually say this; instead, the actual quote is "One's only obligation in life is to pursue one's Personal Legend"), it's almost enough to make me wish I had lost my sight temporarily for a day rather than spending it reading this book. Yes, that's right--despite the fact that I have a wife and two children who leave me with nary a free moment even on my holidays, I managed to put this book away in exactly twenty-four hours.
There are some books one ploughs through breathlessly, excitedly, because one can not put them down until one runs out of pages to read. There are others that one disposes of quickly because there is nothing resembling content to hold one up. The Alchemist falls into the latter category.
Some may claim that people are missing the "hidden story" in this book. As Paulo Coelho continually beats readers over the head with the simplistic feel-good "hidden story," I would have to argue that most people with a basic grasp of literacy will catch on.
I recommend that you leave this one to Julia Roberts on the beach.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars pablum for the "things happen for a reason" set,
This review is from: The Alchemist (Paperback)
For those of you who may not have time to gather the many pearls of "wisdom" in this book, I'll summarize a few here:
1. Follow your dreams--note, DO NOT follow your hopes, your ideals, your beliefs or your ambitions. You must literally follow your DREAMS. Santiago the shepherd boy, has a dream one night that he will find a treasure. Thus begins his quest. Well, last night I had a dream that I was being chased through Disney World by a gorilla in a tutu. Sucks for me, but apparently that's what the Soul of the World intends for me, so I guess I better head to Florida.
2. There is a secret Language of the Universe. Can you guess which one it is?
3. Yes, of course it's love. Good news is, the verbs in this language are extremely fun to conjugate. If you're not sure how you will learn this secret language and see into the Soul of the World? Well, you'll need three things:
c. a desert
4. If you are open to the secret Language of the Universe, you will know your intended spouse the moment you see him or her. Unfortunately, for all you married folks, if you didn't immediately recognize that your spouse was your intended mate, like say if you actually took the time to get to know them, GET DIVORCED IMMEDIATELY! You are married to the wrong person. Try to be more open to the secret Language of the Universe next time. Hint: walk in the desert.
5. Oh yeah, back to following your dream. Even if your dream is physically impossible, like say, turning lead into gold, follow it anyway. What matters is that you GO FOR IT!
6. Don't believe the Bible when it says things like "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." SIGNS are the way to go. God is constantly sending you omens letting you know what you should do next. You just gotta take the time to see them. (See Hint above).
7. If you're a woman, stop holding your man back from reaching his dreams with your clingy "love." Don't you understand that there is TREASURE for him out there? Your job is to wait till he finds it. Then maybe he'll come back for you, or, hey, maybe he'll die, but that will be okay cause then he'll be like part of the rain and the dirt and stuff.
8. If you meet some random old man on the street who tells you he is a king, there is NO WAY he can possibly be lying. Do whatever he tells you.
9. "There is only one way to learn...through action." Good news for all you college students--dump those useless expensive textbooks now! (No offense Amazon)
10. "Listen to your heart. It knows all things because it came from the Soul of the World." I have been listening to MY heart because apparently it knows neurosurgery. (Although it only seems to say ka-thump ka-thump, still, I got me a scalpel. If you have a brain tumor, I am open for business!)
11. Gold is the metal that has evolved the furthest. HA--you thought is was just a shiny, yellow, highly conductive but still vastly over-priced metal. Pay attention to your heart and the Soul of the World, you fool. Maybe then some of that highly evolved metal will lead you to itself. (Like with omens and stuff)
12. "There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure." True enough, I suppose...though so far I am having trouble finding a tutu that will fit a gorilla...still I will try not to fear failure so that my dream of being chased through Disney World by a tutu-wearing gorilla can come true.
13. The winds know everything...you know, kinda like the heart.
14. "When you are loved, you can do anything in creation." So, dude, if you find that there's anything whatsoever you CAN'T do--bad news, it means you ARE NOT LOVED! (Feel free to test this axiom by performing a triple back somersault...NOW!)
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not original,
This book is based on the story of Night 351 of the "One thousand and one nights". J.L. Borges also made a short story (almost a synopsys) of this ("Historia de los dos que soñaron"-Story about the two who dreamt). Mr. Coelho probably got his idea from the latter. Unless you like Coelho's other novels very much, or are into New Age stuff, you would do better buying Borges' "A Universal History of Iniquity" or one of his collected fictions. Coelho's book expands on the (possible) journey of the dreamer, adds some some New Age positive philosophy, and some magic. Though the journey has its good scenes and moments of insight, the "how to" of the philosophy and magic is easily forgotten: its the substance of the story (Night 351) that matters and what the reader will remember most. And that can be put into one sentence that I won't write here. Save yourself the "meditation" and time, and go read Borges.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking story but too much existential babble,
Coelho tells the story of the shepherd Santiago, who goes in search of treasure to fulfill his life's purpose or "Personal Legend." If you can get past the perennial existential babble, it's a decent story and - I admit - it made me reflect on my life. For that latter quality, I recommend it. [Examples of babble: "Any given thing on the face of the earth could reveal the history of all things," and "If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil." What?]
The fundamental message of the book is that you should discover your "personal calling" (as Coelho calls it in his introduction) and not be afraid to pursue it. This shepherd encounters all sorts of obstacles, yet he seems eventually remembers (or is reminded of) his goal and continues to pursue it. As I read, I found myself reflecting on my own personal calling and whether I am still on the meandering road that pursues it. I would like to be reminded to reflect on that more often.
In tone, the book vaguely evokes Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet but without being nearly as directly meaningful nor as poetic. Towards the beginning, I felt the same cheesiness that repelled me in Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but Coelho thankfully tones it down several notches.
68 of 85 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars witless, unoriginal allegory that has somehow duped everyone,
this book is ghastly!
i really can't understand the fuss about this and can only assume that people are going around hailing it as something important, a publishing phenomenon etc etc simply because they feel they should. the old man santiago meets in spain comments on an irritating book the shepherd is reading-irritating because it says that '...everyone believes the world's greatest lie.'
well, my friends, you all seem to believe the world's second greatest lie-i.e. that this is a decent book.
it's allegorical nonsense the imagination and insight of which both pale in comparsion to some simple fairy tales. i think that the sycophantic followers of this dross really need to get out more-read joseph conrad or something-challenge yourselves-find a better destiny!
54 of 67 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor thoughts, badly written.,
By A Customer
If you love Proust, Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, Virginia Woolf, Hermann Broch or Thomas Pynchon, you will not like "The Alchimist". This is not literature. The plot is entirely borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges. The writing is as bad in portuguese as mine is in english. Save your money and save the good literature in our language. Don't buy it.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Paperback - April 25, 1993)