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The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Written by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist was published in 1988 and became one of the best-selling books ever, as it was sold in more than 65 million copies and established a world record for most translated book by a living author.

There are many connections between the main character and the Brazilian author`s life. After this big success, Coelho wrote many other books which become best-sellers worldwide, even if some critics accuse him for writing mass-market fables as literature.

Plot Summary

The main theme of The Alchemist is discovering and following one`s Personal Legend. The Andalusian shepherd Santiago is troubled by a dream in which he is advised to go and find the treasure hidden at the Egyptian pyramids. Thinking it may a prophecy, Santiago goes to a gypsy woman who tells him to go to the pyramids and find the treasure. In case he really finds it, she wants 1/10 of it. In addition, a strange old man claiming to be King of Salem advice Santiago the same thing and tells him the journey to Egypt is his Personal Legend.

Santiago sells his flock and goes to Tangier. His money is stolen, so he starts working at a local crystal merchant. After a year of learning all kind of life lessons, Santiago continues his Personal Legend by joining a caravan in order to cross the Sahara desert towards the Egyptian pyramids. The Englishman he meets teaches him a lot about alchemy, including the pursuit of the Philosophical Stone and the Elixir of Life. The Englishman travels to an oasis, Al-Fayorum, to meet a 200-year-old alchemist who can give him some important answers.

Arrived on the Al-Fayorum, the caravan must stay longer as there are tribal wars in the desert. Here, Santiago falls in love with beautiful Fatima. Because of Santiago`s predictions and interpretation of the desert, the oasis surpasses a surprise attack. The alchemist meets Santiago and speaks about the importance of living his Personal Legend and following his heart. He persuades Santiago to take to journey to Egypt with him and leave Fatima for the moment.

The two men continue their journey through the desert while talking about alchemy and the Soul of the World. They are captured by a tribe of soldiers. The alchemist gives them all Santiago`s money and inform them the young man will turn into wind. Santiago has no idea how to change into wind and fear he will be killed. In the day agreed, he talks to the wind and the sun, prays to the Hand That Wrote All and a storm makes him disappear and appear in another place. The tribe is amazed by his power and frees them.

Before arriving at the pyramids, the alchemist uses his Philosopher Stone to turn metal into gold, hands Santiago the gold and leaves him to finish the journey alone. While digging for the treasure at the pyramids, two men accost him and he tells them the dream of the treasure. To prove him wrong, one of them also shares his dream in which he saw a treasure hidden in a Spanish abandoned church. Santiago realizes this church is the one in which he had his dream, so he returns to Spain and finds the treasure. The book ends with him planning to go to Fatima.

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