Tag Archive | allegory

Book review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Alchemist is one of those books that I read because it was on a list somewhere of “books you must read in your lifetime”. Lists like that usually contain a number of books I wouldn’t read in a million years (sorry, not sorry, War and Peace), but others, like this one, sounded interesting enough to be worth a gander.

And it IS interesting enough, as far as it goes. As other folks have mentioned, this short novella can be read as a straightforward adventure story, but only if you ignore all the metaphysical “fulfilling your personal legend” stuff that keeps getting in the way. And all the metaphysical “fulfilling your personal legend” stuff is Coelho’s whole point. Unfortunately.

Look, I’m all for someone following their bliss, if they’re are fortunate enough to discover it at an age when they can do something about it that doesn’t wreck or disrupt the lives of the people who depend on them. Trouble is, most of us aren’t and never will be in that position, so books like this turn into annoying self-help new-age treacly bullshit. And if that sounds like a middle-aged cop-out from a community theatre actor with a “real job”, so be it. I am what I am. I’m also content being who I am.

All right, seriously, here’s the bottom line: read this book when you’re 20 years old and trying to figure out what to do with your life. Or when you’re 65 after you’ve raised the kids and saved for retirement, and you’re looking around for the next thing. Otherwise, skip it; be kind to yourself and to others; and be content. Your personal legend is all around you.

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