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The Alchemist | Introduction

One of the most popular novels to emerge in the past twenty years, Paulo Coelhos The
Alchemist, a story about the necessary pursuit of happiness, has endeared its author to thousands
of readers worldwide. The Alchemist was originally published in Portuguese in 1988. However,
the novels translation into English and republication in 1993 made the work an overnight
financial success. It remains on several best-seller lists every year.
The Alchemist traces the path of Santiago, a young Spanish shepherd who is compelled to follow
his dream of finding hidden treasure in Egypt. To do so, he must leave the comfort zone of home,
learn to trust the Soul of the World, and believe that there are forces in the universe that want
us to be happy. In order to find happiness, however, Santiago must first discover his Personal
Legendthat is to say, he must to discover what he is meant to do in the world. Fortunately,
Santiago soon takes the first step in his acquisition of happiness: he listens to his heart and
overcomes fear. As Santiago continues his sometimes-painful journey, he discovers that one
cannot be dissuaded from pursuing a Personal Legend, even if the choices seem impossible to
bear. The end result for anyone who does so, Coelho assures his readers, is physical and spiritual

The Alchemist Summary

Set in an undefined time and taking place alternately between Spain and Egypt, The Alchemist is
the story of Santiagos quest for fortune, his Personal Legend, and the decoding of the Language
of the World. The young man must endure many obstacles. First, he must overcome those who
have told him since childhood that his dreams can never be realized. Santiago has to understand
that those who truly love him will not begrudge him the pursuit of his dreams. Then, he must
hold back fear of failure and defeat to continue his quest. Last, he has to understand that the
worst thing in life is to deny ones dreams.
Although the ultimate realization of ones dreams is a solitary affair, Santiago is required to
accept help in various guises, not all of which are immediately understood as helpful. He must
agree to give up part of whatever fortune he finds. He has to believe in the interpretation of his
dreams and trust in a man, an alchemist, who has valuable information to share, although the
man is mysterious and his veracity unchecked. He must place his faith in the alchemist when all
logic would dictate otherwise.
Santiago must let go in order to receive real love, find fortune, and achieve understanding. Like
all of those who dare to dream, Santiago experiences setbacks. During his journey, Santiago is
delayed as he works for many months in a crystal shop. When he is able to raise enough money
to travel, the reality of tribal warfare threatens his life. But like an adventurer in the midst of a
sandstorm, Santiago keeps his eyes on the path and his mind on his task. When he eventually
realizes his dreams, they are better than he could have ever imagined.
The Alchemist can be understood as a roadmap to finding Santiagos treasure, both physical and
spiritual. Like the four corners of the earth, there are four points of contention through which the

protagonist must travel in order to find his treasure: overcoming childhoods messages of no,
you cant, fear of hurting those he loves, facing the reality of defeats, and dealing with the
reality of successes.
Part I
Santiagos story begins in an abandoned church, the place where the young shepherd has taken
refuge for the night. As harmonious as life is with the livestock, Santiago longs for more and
thinks back to how he arrived at this place in his life. He wanted to travel but met with stark
resistance from his father, who warned his son that almost everyone who seeks new things
winds up disappointed.
Undaunted, Santiago refused to surrender. If a shepherds life would let him travel, then that is