Paulo Coelho and His Novel The Alchemist

Categories: Novel

The novel “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho is an emotive story that has reached many lectors and for its popularity, this novel has transcended by many generations.

About Paulo Coehlo

Paulo Coehlo is a Brazilian writer who always dreamed of an artistic career, something frowned upon in his middle-class household. In the austere surroundings of a strict Jesuit school Paulo discovered his true vocation, however, his parents had different plans for him. When their attempts to suppress his devotion to literature failed, they took it as a sign of mental illness.

When Paulo was seventeen, his father had him committed to a mental institution, right after Paulo left the hospital he became a hippie because he was always a nonconformist and a seeker of the new. Paulo Coehlo is also known as one of the most uncommon writers in the world and wrote “The Alchemist” the most sold book in Brazil and one of the bestselling in the world.

Paulo Coehlo Biography

Paulo Coehlo was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on August 24, 1947, the son of Pedro Queima Coehlo de Souza, an engineer, and his wife, Lygia, a homemaker.

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In the 1970’s Paulo became involved with a theater group as a director and actor and started to work as a journalist, he began collaborating with music producer as a songwriter whose songs were sung by well-known Brazilian singers. He wrote more than 60 songs. During this time Paulo sought spiritual experience, traveling all over Latin America in the footsteps of Carlos Castaneda.

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In 1973 Paulo joined the alternative Society, an organization that defended
the individual’s right to free expression and began publishing a series of comic strips, calling for more freedom. Members of the organization were detained and imprisoned. Two days later, Paulo was kidnapped and tortured by a group of paramilitaries.

At the age of twenty-six, Paulo decided that he had had enough of living on the edge and wanted to be “normal”. He worked as an executive in the music industry. He tried his hand at writing but did not start seriously until after he had an encounter with a stranger.

In 1987, a year after completing the pilgrim of the Road of Santiago de Compostela, Paulo wrote The Pilgrimage: Diary of Magus and a year later wrote a very different book, The Alchemist.

Paulo Coehlo is an outspoken activist for peace and social justice. He is a Messenger of Peace for the UNESCO, and Ambassador to the European Union for Intercultural Dialogue, a member of the Board of the Shimon Peres Institute for Peace and this is just to mention few of Paulo’s affiliations.

Paulo’s bibliography

In his long and successful career, Paulo Coehlo has written about fourteen books and below is the list of his collection. Some of the books have been translated in more than 67 languages such as “The Alchemist” and sold in more than 150 countries. For this reason Paulo Coehlo has transcended as one of the most famous novelist in the world and his novels have touched the hearts of people everywhere. Year| Book|

1987| The Pilgrimage|
1988| The Alchemist|
1990| Brida|
1992| The Valkyries|
1994| By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept|
1996| The Fifth Mountain|
1997| The Manual of the Warrior of Light|
1998| Veronika Decides to Die|
2000| The Devil and Miss Prym|
2003| Eleven Minutes|
2005| The Zahir|

| The Witch of Portobello|
2008| The Winner Stands Alone|
2010| The Aleph (published in Brazil and Turkey; to be released worldwide in 2011)|

Paulo Coehlo’s famous quotes

Paulo Coehlo has been characterized for being an adventurous person, a pioneer and a follower of his dreams. Some of the best inspirational quotes of Paulo Coehlo are: "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." "It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting." "People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of." "Don't give in to your fears. If you do, you won't be able to talk to your heart." "Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time." "I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now."

The Alchemist

This book is one of the bestselling books of all the times, more than 65 million copies have been sold and has been translated in more than 67 languages


“The Alchemist” tells the story of an Andalucian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Pyramid of Egypt in search of a treasure. Along the way meets different characters that will point him to the direction of his dreams. During this journey to discover the secret treasure, he will face many obstacles, but at the end it will teach him the
importance of listening to his heart to transform the power of his dreams in reality.

Meet the characters

Santiago: is the protagonist of the story, a shepherd who also values his freedom very highly, and why he is a little bit reserve to get involved in things which threaten his freedom. In the end, he realizes that playing it safe is often more threatening to his freedom than taking a risk. Melchizedek: is the king of Salem, a mysterious far-off land. Melchizedek appears to Santiago in the town square of Tarifa, where he tells Santiago about the Soul of the World and his Personal Legend for the first time. Melchizedek always appears to people who are trying to live their Personal Legend, even if they don't know it. While he appears at first to be dressed in common Arab dress, at one point he pulls aside his cloak to reveal a gold breastplate encrusted with precious stones. He also gives Santiago the magical stones Urim and Thummim. The Englishman: Santiago meets the Englishman on the caravan to Al-Fayoum.

The Englishman is trying to become a great alchemist and is traveling to Al-Fayoum to study with a famous alchemist who is rumored to be over 200 years old and to have the ability to turn any metal into gold. Santiago learns much about alchemy from the Englishman, who lends Santiago his books while they travel across the Sahara. Fatima: a beautiful girl who lives at the Al-Fayoum oasis. Santiago falls in love with her at the well there. He and Fatima talk everyday for several weeks, and finally he asks her to marry him. Fatima, however, insists that he seek out his Personal Legend before they marry. The Alchemist: very powerful alchemist who lives at the Al-Fayoum oasis in Egypt.

Initially, Santiago hears about him through the Englishman, but eventually Santiago reveals himself to be the Alchemist's true disciple. The Alchemist dresses in all black and uses a falcon to hunt for game. The Alchemist is also in possession of the Elixir of Life and the Philosopher's Stone. The Shopkeeper: gives Santiago a job in Tangiers after he has been robbed. Santiago takes the job at the crystal shop and learns much about the shopkeeper's attitude toward life and the importance of dreaming. The shopkeeper, while generally afraid to take risks, is a very kind man and understands Santiago's quest sometimes more than Santiago himself. This is the case when the shopkeeper tells Santiago that he will not return to Spain, since it is not his fate.

Summary of the story

Tells the story of a young shepherd named Santiago who is able to find a treasure beyond his wildest dreams. Along the way, he learns to listen to his heart and, more importantly, realizes that his dreams, or his Personal Legend, are not just his but part of the Soul of the Universe. Santiago is a humble shepherd whose desires are few he wants to be free to roam with his sheep, to have some wine in his wineskin and a book in his bag. Fate intervenes, however, in the form of the recurring dream of a great treasure hidden thousands of miles away at the base of the Egyptian Pyramids. When Santiago meets Melchizedek, a strange wise man who claims he is a king from a far-off land, he decides to seek his treasure. The next day, Santiago sells his sheep and embarks to Africa to pursue his dream.

Upon arriving in Africa, though, it becomes apparent that things will not be as easy as he thought. The first day Santiago is in Tangiers, he is robbed and left completely alone, unable to speak a single word of Arabic. At first Santiago contemplates giving up and turning around. He remembers the words of the wise man, though, and decides to carry on getting a job at a local crystal shop. After working at the crystal shop for a year, learning much about life and about his Personal Legend, Santiago earns enough money to buy a new flock of sheep and return home. At the last minute, though, Santiago decides to risk it all and join a caravan to Egypt.

Once in the caravan, Santiago meets an Englishman who has come all the way to Africa to seek a renowned alchemist. As they travel through the desert, the Englishman tells Santiago about the secrets of alchemy. Santiago finds the Englishman's ideas to be very similar to Melchizedek's. They both speak of a Soul of the World to which we are all connected and of the necessity of following our heart's true desires or our Personal Legend. Santiago, however, prefers to learn these secrets by observing the world, while the Englishman prefers to learn from complex books. While they travel, they begin to hear rumors of a coming tribal war.

When they finally arrive at the Al-Fayoum oasis the home of the titular Alchemist Santiago meets a beautiful girl named Fatima with whom he immediately falls in love. He discovers that love, like the Personal Legend, comes directly from the Soul of the World. While walking in the desert, Santiago has a vision of an upcoming battle. He rushes back to warn the elders at the oasis and, when his vision is confirmed, they offer him a position as a counselor. Santiago considers staying at the oasis with Fatima, but the Alchemist finds Santiago and tells him that he will lead Santiago to his treasure.

Once again, the Alchemist teaches Santiago to listen to his heart. Hearts can be treacherous, but the best way to keep them from fooling you is to listen to them intently. Almost to the pyramids, Santiago and the Alchemist are taken prisoner by a warring tribe. The Alchemist tells the tribesmen that Santiago is a powerful magician who can turn himself into the wind. The tribesmen are impressed and will spare the lives of the men if Santiago can do it. The only problem is that Santiago has no idea what he is doing. After three days of meditating, Santiago uses his knowledge of the Soul of the World to ask the elements to help him. First he asks the desert, then he asks the wind, then he asks the sun and, finally, he asks the Soul of the World. Immediately, the wind whips up, and Santiago disappears and reappears on the other side of the camp.

The Alchemist takes his leave of Santiago, who continues on to the Pyramids. Once there, Santiago is attacked by robbers. Asked what he is doing there, Santiago replies that he had a dream of a treasure buried at the base of the Pyramids. One of the robbers laughs at him, and says that he has had the exact same dream, except that in his the treasure was buried in Spain. Santiago realizes that the treasure was back in Spain the entire time.

While The Alchemist claims to listen with his heart, he does not actually live it. When he is with the tribesmen, he claims one thing but does another. How so? He claims he can turn himself into the wind. That is neither honest nor true. But is it that he is dishonest or is he a
dreamer. I cannot tell.

The story then jumps forward in time and finds Santiago digging a hole at the base of the tree where he had had his first dream. Sure enough, he finds a trunk full of gold enough for him and Fatima to live happily for a long time.

The adventures he transcends and the conclusions drawn from them may be that at the end of struggle there is happiness. That too is not honest or true. Not everyone can come to that fairytale ending.

The inspiration of the story

The Alchemist is a really good book and the author, Paulo Coelho, does a great job of relating the story in a way that will inspire lectors in many aspects of their life such as personal or professional. You can't help but to start thinking of your own dreams and how they may or may not have fallen by the wayside as you encountered some of the obstacles that the young shepherd boy has to overcome. The shepherd's journey grips you and helplessly pulls you along and you start to think again about your own dreams and how it has fallen by the wayside. At the end, the book leaves you with a sense of wonder and a new appreciation for the dreams you had when you were younger. You dare ask whether now is the time to continue pursuing those and you start to ask how can I let the magic of my dreams happen.


  1. “The Alchemist” by Paolo Coehlo, New York: Harper Collins, 1998.
  2. Official Paulo Coelho’s website.
  3. Interview with Paulo Coehlo, Paris, France 2009.
  4. Interview with Paulo Coehlo, London, UK 2004.
  6. Paulo Coehlo’s Biography.
  7. Publisher of the book
  8. The New York Times, August 30, 2005 - interview with Paulo Coehlo.
Updated: Apr 19, 2023
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Paulo Coelho and His Novel The Alchemist. (2016, Apr 11). Retrieved from

Paulo Coelho and His Novel The Alchemist essay
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