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The Alchemy of Life

Aggie Zaremba

At first glance, “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho seems to be a short fable written in plain, direct language – one of those you can read at a dinner table. But that’s just an impression, as behind the surface lies bedrock-solid wisdom about following one’s heart.

The story by Coelho, who’s called by some a “Brazilian wizard,” teaches you how to find your Personal Legend and live your life with a child’s faith.

Children are born with this exceptional ability to pursue their dreams without even thinking about it once, says Coelho in his book. Unfortunately, when they grow up they forget about the sacred world of their fantasies.



“The Alchemist” begins in Andalusia, where a shepherd named Santiago has a dream. In his dream, a small boy promises Santiago he’ll find a treasure buried in the Pyramids. From then on, his mind is occupied with the idea of taking off to Africa and finding the treasure.

He is not happy with his sheep anymore. All of a sudden, he notices the only thing that matters to them is food, water and shelter. On the other hand, they are his whole world, the only one he’s known so far. Not capable of deciding what he really wants, the shepherd meets a Gypsy woman, a man that calls himself the king of Salem and an alchemist, all playing the role of an invisible hand that pushes Santiago in the direction of the unknown he is going to explore. That’s how the journey starts. It will be full of obstacles, omens and miracles as life is. Sometimes Santiago will find himself in a no-way-out situation, but once he’s started his quest, he can’t quit. That’s what happens when you find your Personal Legend – you have to follow it.



“The Alchemist,” which was written in 1988, established its author’s worldwide fame. According to The English Times, Coelho’s books “have had a life-enhancing impact on millions of people.” Some of his other novels include “The Pilgrimage,” “By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept,” “The Fifth Mountain,” “The Manual of The Warrior of Light,” “Veronika Decides to Die,” and the most recent, “The Devil and Miss Prym.”

“The Alchemist” is available through local bookstores Verbatim Booksellers in Lionshead and The Bookworm of Edwards.


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