Read IN BED: The Alchemist
Words by Suyin Cavanagh
Whenever I mention The Alchemist, most people will express being drawn to re-reading it at certain times in their lives. With these past two years featuring unparalleled change for many and an unusual amount of time spent at home with less in-person human contact, it felt like an optimal time to reacquaint with Coelho’s spiritual classic.
The mantra of discovering and following one’s Personal Legend is the golden thread of the novel. We witness the wild and wondrous journey of our protagonist, a young shepherd boy, Santiago. Like lovingly watching a loyal friend, we become captivated in his quest to fulfill his Personal Legend and find buried treasure, apparently located somewhere below the Pyramids of Egypt.
At the outset it’s a simple tale about a young man’s search for unknown riches, however, the cast of colourful people he meets along the way inject surprising twists and turns. The first important person Santiago meets is a palm reader, second - disguised King of Salem, third - a charlatan, fourth - crystal shop owner, fifth - British Alchemist in training, sixth - Fatima, desert woman with dark eyes. Finally, and perhaps the most significant person is an Alchemist of family lineage, living as part of a band in a protected desert Oasis. Santiago’s dynamic with each person is filled with symbolism, which infuses the writing with what has become known as Coelho’s simple and powerful storytelling flavour of slowly showing, rather than telling.
At the outset it’s a simple tale about a young man’s search for unknown riches, however, the cast of colourful people he meets along the way inject surprising twists and turns.
The sequence of each person’s appearance is a fine study in deliberation. However brief the interaction, sometimes it feels like an entire universe of strange lessons, discoveries and lightning bolt moments are explored in one fated meeting and the imprints of these exchanges remain long after the initial encounters.
As the story progresses we begin to become aware that the entire novel may be a metaphor for discovering how to return home … not necessarily to a geographical or physical place but to one’s spiritual home. We learn, regardless of what treasure may exist buried deep in the earth, nothing compares to the treasure which resides inside each one of us. Like Santiago, if we continue to have faith, watch for positive omens, listen to our hearts … our Personal Legends are destined to take shape!
For me this excerpt encapsulates The Alchemist best “We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”