The Alchemist (novel)

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The Alchemist
Original Brazilian publication
AuthorPaulo Coelho
Original titleO Alquimista
Cover artistCaravaggio, Narcissus, 1597-9
GenreQuest, adventure, fantasy
PublisherHarperTorch (English translation)
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint (hardback, paperback and iTunes), Audiobook (Audible)
Pages163 pp (first English edition, hardcover), 208 pages (25th Anniversary Edition)
ISBN0-06-250217-4 (first English edition, hardcover)
Preceded byThe Pilgrimage (1987) 
Followed byBrida (1990) 

The Alchemist (Portuguese: O Alquimista) is a novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho that was first published in 1988. Originally written in Portuguese, it became a widely translated international bestseller.[1][2] An allegorical novel, The Alchemist follows a young Andalusian shepherd in his journey to the pyramids of Egypt, after having a recurring dream of finding a treasure there.


An Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago consults a Gypsy fortune-teller about the meaning of a recurring dream. The woman interprets it as a prophetic, telling the boy that he will discover a treasure at the Egyptian pyramids.

After Santiago sets out, he meets an old king named Melchizedek, or the king of Salem, who tells him to sell his sheep so as to travel to Egypt and accomplish his 'Personal Legend'. Early on his arrival in Africa, a man who claims to be able to take Santiago to the pyramids robs him instead of the money he had made from his flock. Santiago then has to work for a crystal merchant so to earn enough to get to the pyramids.

Along the way, the boy meets an Englishman who has come in search of an alchemist and continues his travels with his new companion. When they reach an oasis, Santiago meets and falls in love with an Arabian girl named Fatima, to whom he proposes marriage. She promises to marry him only after he completes his journey. Frustrated at first, he later learns that true love will not stop nor must one sacrifice one's destiny to it, since to do so robs it of truth.

The boy then encounters a wise alchemist, who teaches him to realize his true self. Together, they risk a journey through the territory of warring tribes, where Santiago is forced to demonstrate his oneness with "the soul of the world" by turning himself into a dust storm before he is allowed to proceed. When he begins digging within sight of the pyramids, he is robbed yet again, but accidentally learns from the leader of the thieves that the treasure he sought was all along in the ruined church where he had his original dream.


Coelho wrote The Alchemist in only two weeks in 1987. He explained that he was able to write at this pace because the story was "already written in [his] soul."[3]

The book's main theme is about finding one's destiny, although according to The New York Times, The Alchemist is "more self-help than literature".[4] The advice given to Santiago that "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe will conspire so that your wish comes true" is the core of the novel's philosophy and a motif that plays throughout it.[5]

The Alchemist was first released by Rocco,[6] an obscure Brazilian publishing house. Albeit having sold "well," the publisher after a year decided to give Coelho back the rights.[7] Needing to "heal" himself from this setback, Coelho set out to leave Rio de Janeiro with his wife and spent 40 days in the Mojave Desert. Returning from the excursion, Coelho decided he had to keep on struggling[7] and was "so convinced it was a great book that [he] started knocking on doors."[3]


In 1994, a comic adaptation was published by Alexandre Jubran.[8] HarperOne, a HarperCollins imprint, produced an illustrated version of the novel, with paintings by the French artist Mœbius, but failed to convince Coelho "to consent to the full graphic-novel treatment."[9] The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel was published in 2010, adapted by Derek Ruiz and with artwork by Daniel Sampere.

The Alchemist's Symphony by the young Walter Taieb was released in 1997 with the support of Paulo Coelho, who wrote an original text for the CD booklet.[10] The work has eight movements and five interludes.[11][12]

In 2002, a theatrical adaptation of The Alchemist was produced and performed in London.[13] Since then there have been several productions by the Cornish Collective.[14] A later London performance was visited by the producer Ashvin Gidwani who, finding it “verbose but colourful”, decided to commission a new 90-minute version of the book from Deepa Gahlot for the Indian stage.[15] This was eventually launched in 2009.[16]

In 2006, Mistaken Identity, a Singapore indie-rock band, adapted the story of the novel into what they claimed was "essentially our attempt at writing a musical" and released the track as "The Alchemist".[17] Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho an Indian Malayalam-language film written and directed by Sidhartha Siva, the title of the movie is inspired by novelist Paulo Coelho, and a central theme is inspired from The Alchemist.[18][19]

In July 2021, Will Smith announced that he had acquired the filming rights to the novel, but following setbacks the state of the project is currently unclear.[20]


  1. ^ "Paulo Coelho in WorldCat database". WorldCat. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  2. ^ "The Alchemist > Editions". Goodreads. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Pool, Hannah (March 19, 2009). "Question time". The Guardian. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  4. ^ Cowles, Gregory (October 8, 2009). "Inside the List". The New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  5. ^ Flanagan, Mark. "The Alchemist".
  6. ^ Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  7. ^ a b "Interview with Paulo Coelho". March 2008. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  8. ^ ""O Alquimista" vira filme de Hollywood - Cultura". Estadão.
  9. ^ Itzkoff, David (July 6, 2010). "Graphic Novel of 'The Alchemist': Words Into Pictures". The New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  10. ^ Walter Taieb (February 1, 2017). "The Alchemist's Symphony". Retrieved December 12, 2017 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ Discogs
  12. ^ Performance on YouTube
  13. ^ Gardner, Lyn (January 11, 2002). "The Alchemist, London" – via
  14. ^ "The Alchemist".
  15. ^ "I saw the Bhagvad Gita in The Alchemist: Ashvin Gidwani". mid-day. April 18, 2009.
  16. ^ Mohua Das, Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist Breezes Through Town, Telegraph India, 20 October 2009
  17. ^ The Alchemist, retrieved March 15, 2021
  18. ^ "Paulo Coelho's work inspires Kunchacko's film?". The Times of India.
  19. ^ "When Paulo Coelho shared Kunchacko Boban-Sidhartha Siva's 'Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho' first look poster". International Business Times.
  20. ^ Big News Network

External links[edit]

The Alchemist at Sparknotes