The Alchemist (Brazil)

Alchemistby Paulo Coelho

Thought it would be interesting to read “Brazil” and “Portugal” side by side; I’m currently working on a Portuguese author who has been compared to Faulkner. He’s as complex as Coelho is *apparently* simple.

It sold a million copies at Auntie’s Bookstore while I worked there; the largest indie bookstore West of the Rockies and East of Powell’s City of Books in Portland.

That said I was a bit disappointed that the novel wasn’t set in Brazil…you know, that mysterious country that Bogey and Bacall run off to in order to escape the law at the end of Dark Passage…oh wait, that was Peru.

But as my DH pointed out to me; I never set my stories in the city I live in either. I guess that’s because I fell in love with the exotic locales I travelled to in my 20s. I can’t blame Coelho either.

The story took me about an hour to read and a month to think about (digest). All I can say is that I must not learn by allegory. I mean, like when I read Pirandello in college English class, I can get the references. I see what he means. But it left me cold, unlike reading Night by Eli Wiesel. Did I learn anything about following my Personal Legend or listening to my own heart from the book? Not really.

If I could have identified with the characters or felt for them or through them I might have. They were sort of cardboard-like and what I’m used to in my time period and culture is deceptively realistic. So, not for me.

It is an easy read and a beautiful story as the little shepherd boy travels from his native Andalusia to Africa (and it wasn’t until I saw the map that I really understood how close the other countries were). He wants to see the Pyramids in Egypt and has adventures along the way. I liked how the Englishman’s path was through books and the boys through listening to the desert and how they were unable to extract meaning from the other’s path.

But I almost felt the book was too simple. Have I read too many cheesy self-help books to really get this one? Nonetheless, Coelho writes beautifully. If he wants to recite the phone book it’s ok with me.

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