The Alchemist

On Good Reads there seems to be a bimodal distribution of The Alchemist reviews.  Some find it profound some find it trite.  

One user named Marte:  "It reads like a really bad self-help book written for 8 year old children and disguised as a symbolic parable."

Clint: "I hate this book so much."
  
Jibran: "If books were pills, Alchemist would be a sugarcoated placebo with no real effect." 

There are others that loved the story.  The Alchemist has an easily digested lesson in the form of a parable. 

The problem with the The Alchemist (will be referred to as TA) is that it tells you what you need to hear.  I was listening to a 90s playlist and Rollins Band's Liar came on.  Fortuitous. 

You meet me And your whole world changes Because everything I say is everything you've ever wanted to hear So you drop all your defenses and you drop all your fears And you trust me completely


And that is where the negativity about this book comes from.  It's lies.  It's sugar-coated non-sense to make the lost and burdened feel connected to ... something ... "the Soul of the World" in Coehelo's words.  The lost are to communicate through a "Universal language" and to follow one's "Personal Legend."  Coehelo fashions the lessons of following your heart and listening/watching for omens into a hammer and bludgeons the reader mercilessly.

It's easy to feel good when reading TA.  It's method is old, tested, and reliable.  Christianity (I was raised Catholic) says the same things as does TA: "things are bad now, they'll be great later, your paradise is in heaven, God loves the meek and down trodden.  Desperate people can latch on to messages and authority figures.   The more vague the message, the easier to mold to one's circumstances.  For the things in our control we should vehemently pursue positive outcomes (education, family, career).   For the things that are out of our control, one cannot do as Cohelo recommends and pursue blindly and unquestioningly.  I love singing.  I sing all the time to the chagrin of my lab mates (Thanks for being so nice about it guys. You are, for the record, the best ever!).  I will never make my living singing unless I can have people to pay me to stop.  It would be foolhardy to chase singing, however liberating and enjoyable.  

TA is a foolhardy-newagey parable with little to offer but a feel good message for the downtrodden.  That alone makes TA worthwhile.  It does not, make TA profound literature.   

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