Monday, September 24, 2012

On "The Alchemist" by Coelho

Finished rereading Paulo Coelho's hugely successful novel "The Alchemist." I had forgotten the details of the novel so when I got a chance to read it for the second time, I grasped at the opportunity. First and foremost, this novel possesses no literary qualities. It is a self-help book garbed with fictional details; Coelho is Shiva Khera of fiction. Now, this does not mean I didn't like the novel
. It has got many beautiful insights. It tells the story of a sheepherder Santiago in Spain who dreams of a treasure buried in the sands of Egypt and embarks on a spiritual quest to obtain it. His journey is a not a linear one; it's circular (I don't want to give away the plot, so please find yourself what I mean by circular). He meets many good and bad people during the journey who teach him a lesson or two in life. Chasing your dream, toiling hard to achieve something substantial in life, never giving up, loving someone without conditions, keeping track of one's soul, listening to the heart – these are wonderful teachings that Santiago gets. The small details of sheepherding, crystal glass cleaning, desert traversing all contain philosophical undertones. You know what, every character in this novel is a philosopher – uttering lofty ideals in every of their dialogues. Coelho writes this novel in a heavy-handed manner. But there is nice warmth in the book that encourages the reader to embrace it fondly. Simple, easy and limpid prose helps the cause as well. However dare I say, Coelho is a master plagiarist. He liberally lifts from the Arabian Nights, Plato, Oscar Wilde, and the Bible without attributing the original sources. He has continued to take others' ideas and present them as his own with impunity. But since no one cares, I too give a damn. I generally like Coelho's novels and I have read few others by him. They contain some beautiful insights here and there but as complete novels they don't hold much interest for me.

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