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)
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.


The Alchemist follows the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, he asks a Gypsy fortune teller in the nearby town about its meaning. The woman interprets the dream as a prophecy telling the boy that he will discover a treasure at the Egyptian pyramids.

Early into his journey, 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 introduces the idea of a Personal Legend. Your Personal Legend "is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is."[3]

Early in his arrival to Africa, a man who claims to be able to take Santiago to the pyramids instead robs him of what money he had made from selling his sheep. Santiago then embarks on a long path of working for a crystal merchant so as to make enough money to fulfill his personal legend and go to the pyramids.

Along the way, the boy meets an Englishman who has come in search of an alchemist and continues his travels in his new companion's company. 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 do so only after he completes his journey. Frustrated at first, he later learns that true love will not stop nor must one sacrifice to it one's personal destiny, since to do so robs it of truth.

The boy then encounters a wise alchemist who also teaches him to realize his true self. Together, they risk a journey through the territory of warring tribes, where the boy is forced to demonstrate his oneness with "the soul of the world" by turning himself into a simoom 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 all along was 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."[4]

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".[5] The advice given 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.[6]

The Alchemist was first released by Rocco,[7] an obscure Brazilian publishing house. Albeit having sold "well", the publisher after a year decided to give Coelho back the rights.[8] 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[8] and was "so convinced it was a great book that [he] started knocking on doors".[4]


In 1994, a comic adaptation was published by Alexandre Jubran.[9] 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."[10] The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel was published in 2010, adapted by Derek Ruiz and with artwork by Daniel Sampere.

In 2002, a theatrical adaptation of The Alchemist was produced and performed in London.[11] Since then there have been several productions by the Cornish Collective.[12] In 2009 an Indian adaptation of the novel was staged by Ashvin Gidwani Productions.[13]

In music, The Alchemist has inspired numerous bands of the same name.[10] In 1997 RCA Red Seal released The Alchemist's Symphony by composer and conductor Walter Taieb with the support of Paulo Coelho, who wrote an original text for the CD booklet.[14] In September 2009, an orchestral performance was conducted at the Ansche Chesed Synagogue in New York. Inspired by The Alchemist, "an orchestral performance" was composed by One World Symphony for composer and conductor Sung Jin Hong's wedding.[15]


  1. ^ "Paulo Coelho in WorldCat database". WorldCat. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  2. ^ "The Alchemist > Editions". Goodreads. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  3. ^ The Alchemist, HarperCollins paperback, 1998, p.21
  4. ^ a b Pool, Hannah (March 19, 2009). "Question time". The Guardian. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  5. ^ Cowles, Gregory (October 8, 2009). "Inside the List". The New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  6. ^ Flanagan, Mark. "The Alchemist".
  7. ^ Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  8. ^ a b "Interview with Paulo Coelho". March 2008. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  9. ^ ""O Alquimista" vira filme de Hollywood - Cultura". Estadão.
  10. ^ a b Itzkoff, David (July 6, 2010). "Graphic Novel of 'The Alchemist': Words Into Pictures". The New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  11. ^ Gardner, Lyn (January 11, 2002). "The Alchemist, London" – via
  12. ^ "The Alchemist".
  13. ^ "I saw the Bhagvad Gita in The Alchemist: Ashvin Gidwani". mid-day. April 18, 2009.
  14. ^ Walter Taieb (February 1, 2017). "The Alchemist's Symphony". Retrieved December 12, 2017 – via YouTube.
  15. ^ Schweitzer, Vivien (September 15, 2009). "Inspiration From Bjork, 'The Alchemist' and the Sea". The New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2012.

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