The Red Couch: The Alchemist Introduction

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When I first picked up my tattered paperback copy of the worldwide bestseller The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I wasn’t sure what I’d find inside.

Some people raved about the illuminated truths in its pages and how it changed their lives.

Others said it was total malarky.

At first glance, The Alchemist is a simple allegory about a shepherd boy, Santiago, on a quest to find treasure amid his travels. Dig a bit deeper, however, and the story comes alive with symbolism, mysticism and universal truths we’ve all faced at one time or another.

Lest you want to dismiss it for any literary reason of your own choosing, consider this:

The Alchemist has been translated into more than 8o languages. It spent more than 300 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and is also the most translated book on the planet by any living author.

As I began to read, I was unexpectedly drawn into Santiago’s world. I began to see myself in his story. His dreams and fears, his realizations and epiphanies—like all good literature, both led me further into his journey, while bringing me to the core of my own.

For as long as I can possibly remember, I’ve been a dreamer and an adventurer. Though its true that often, those words sometimes feel cliched and overused, there’s a reason many of us utter them at some point in our lives—they are universal, and felt in some form by most everyone in all walks of life.

Coelho says in the introduction:

“All I know is that, like Santiago the shepherd boy, we all need to be aware of our personal calling … If you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here …” {p. viii}

In the midst of a world full of strife and conflict, unanswered questions, quicksand beneath our toes, and situations that require more than status quo answers—we can read this beautiful and simple story and not only be taken outside of ourselves, but perhaps be better equipped to face our fears and wonders with a dose of courage and what Coelho describes as “the language of enthusiasm.”

This mythical fable also uses terminology such as “omens,” “personal legends” and “soul of the world” to help us understand our own stories more clearly.

Coelho says it best at the end of the book’s introduction:

“I am reminded that it is within our power to build a bridge to be crossed. Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my religion or understand my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me …”  {p. x, 25th anniversary edition introduction}

 

Alchemist discussion

Come back Tuesday, Sept. 22 to discuss The Alchemist in our Facebook group. You can RSVP here or just plan to show up at 6pm PST/8pm CDT/9pm EST.

October’s book is One Church, Many Tribes by Richard Twiss.

Are you reading The Alchemist with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Sarah Caldwell
Sarah Caldwell is the Chief Creative Curator at All Manner of Inspiration, where she gathers everyday inspiration and encourages artists of all makes and models. A musical theatre performer and book lover, Sarah aspires to shed a bright light on the Creative Process that draws others to see their dreams more clearly. When she’s not auditioning, performing, or blogging, Sarah is seeking out ‘the perfect pen’, reading an ever-growing stack of books, and spending time with her friends and family. She’s currently chasing the next inspirational spark and her sweet pup Daphne in the heart of Fort Worth, Texas with her husband Frank.
Sarah Caldwell
Sarah Caldwell

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  • I read The Alchemist many years ago, but recently listened to Krista Tippett’s interview with Coelho on On Being. I appreciated the story of how the book finally became popular–it took SO many years! Now I want to read it again, without expectation, and simply for enjoying the story. Thank you for leading us out, Sarah!

    • fiona lynne

      The Krista Tippett interview is a good one!

    • I’m so looking forward to this book discussion Idelette – glad to hear about the Krista Tippett interview – I didn’t know about that. (I found Oprah’s interview with Coelho rather fascinating.) Thank YOU Idelette for the gift of being a part of She Loves and the Red Couch! I love that we read and discuss such diverse books–there’s so much to be learned and gleaned from everyone here!

    • I loved that interview on On Being! He is a fascinating man.

  • fiona lynne

    We read this last year in our bookclub. Of the six of us, I was the only one who liked it (we are four Christians, two not-religious). I loved the imagery, the rich language, the allegory; they all found it silly and not relatable at all. I found that so interesting! It made me wonder how many of those millions of copies sold were actually enjoyed and appreciated? Looking forward to seeing what other she lovelies thought of the book…

    • Glad to hear your thoughts on this Fiona. I’m with you – I was a skeptic for sure. (Perhaps I should’ve written more about that in my post above.) But I also ran into people who loved this book so fiercely, I knew I had to read it and find out for myself. I’m really looking forward to hearing about people’s thoughts and reactions to this book – it should be a good one for discussion on fb.

  • Hmmmm . . . I’m usually pretty impatient with allegories: Pilgrim’s Progress, Hinds Feet in High Places — do I dare to admit publicly that I struggle to enjoy these books? It will be interesting to see if The Alchemist feels like the others.

    • I understand that Michele–I’ve struggled the same way! I LOVED ‘Hinds Feet…’ but it took me awhile to read! I actually put this book down, then picked it back up as well. I think its a good one to just go in blind reading – without expectations. It was a quick read for me. Hope you’ll join us with this one – I’m looking forward to the discussions as well! 🙂

  • The Alchemist is one I’ve read several times at various stages in life. I always learn something new. Looking forward to rereading it with you all – it’s been a few years!

    • Can’t wait to hear your thoughts, Annie!

    • I’m so excited to hear from someone who has read this book at multiple times Annie! :Hope to hear your thoughts on our Facebook discussion on the 22nd! 🙂

  • Sandy Hay

    I borrowed this book from my library and read it a year ago at the recommendation of Brené Brown. I liked it a lot but I don’t know when I would have picked it up again if it wasn’t part of this book club. So I bought the 25th anniversary edition edition and don’t want to put it down (except that I’m reading Rising Strong at the same time and they’re both pulling me 😉 I was also surprised to see it on my granddaughter Gabi’s , age 12, reading table. We can have our own book club 🙂 This read through, with marker in hand, has shown me LOTS already about how we think and process and truth and obey.

    • So interesting, Sandy! I love that your granddaughter is reading it too.

  • cjdeboer

    Too funny that this is the book club’s new read. I picked it up in the book store just last night, but didn’t like the premise, and so chose one of Paul Coelho’s other books. I’ll put this one back on my to-read list 🙂

    • I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts, Claire!

  • Heather Kuhns

    I liked that part of the introduction as well….

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  • karen williams

    hI Sarah – I have a surprise for you. More than all the hype around THE ALCHEMIST there is something more. Paulo’s fable was an unconscious psychic premonition of what happened to me in real life. That sounds totally preposterous i know, but if you google me: TREASURE KAREN WILLIAMS you will find my ebook on Amazon and can dip in, just to make sure that I am not crazy. Best wishes Sarah. Karen xxxxxx