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BOOK: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
ISBN: 9780061122415
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date Published: 1988
Reviewer: Vincent de Paul

At last I have come around to reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I have seen nuns looking for it earnestly, and I confused it for a pontificating (well, it is sometimes) piece of text that only the clergy would look for. After reading it, I see why it is such a great book: it is because of love.

When the boy meets the love of his life, who used to come to him in a perfumed gust of wind, “at that moment, it seemed to him that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him. When he looked into her dark eyes, and saw that her lips were poised between a laugh and silence, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke—the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert. Something that exerted the same force whenever two pairs of eyes met, as had theirs here at the well. She smiled, and that was certainly an omen—the omen he had been awaiting, without even knowing he was, for all his life. The omen he had sought to find with his sheep and in his books, in the crystals and in the silence of the desert.

It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing. He was more certain of it than of anything in the world … Because, when you know that language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant
This happened to me once, time stood still, nothing else mattered but her, the two of us, until we were jotted to earth by mischievous friends.

But love lets go; if someone truly loves you, they let’s you follow your path even if it’s leaving them and seeing if they will come back … “Those who don’t return become a part of the clouds, a part of the animals that hide in the ravines and of the water that comes from the earth. They become a part of everything … they become the Soul of the World.”

However, “ … love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny. If he abandons that pursuit, it’s because it wasn’t true love …” I wonder whether finding another love and abandoning your present is your destiny (I feel like doing it) because the alchemist says “Let me tell you what will happen. In the first year… You’ll learn to love … Sometime during the second year, you’ll remember about the treasure/your destiny. The omens will begin insistently to speak of it, and you’ll try to ignore them … During the third year, the omens will continue to speak of your treasure and your destiny. You’ll walk around, night after night, at the oasis, and Fatima (your love) will be unhappy because she’ll feel it was she who interrupted your quest. But you will love her, and she’ll return your love. You’ll remember that she never asked you to stay, because a woman (of the desert) knows that she must await her man. So you won’t blame her. But many times you’ll … (be) thinking that maybe you could have left … Because what kept you … was your own fear …”

Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul is an author, editor, and publisher. He has a diploma in Comprehensive Creative Writing from the Writers Bureau, UK.

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